Design & Taxes


where creativity meets democracy


Altoids cuts out your ‘friends’

Altoids ‘Tune Out’ app was developed by Big Spaceship, and set Altoids apart as a brand willing to cut down on your social media clutter. There’s no doubt that the signal-to-noise ratio in anyone’s given Twitter or Facebook feed is extremely low, so Altoids set out to make things different. The app allowed users to select their favorite people and then see tweets and updates ONLY from those people, ignoring everyone else.

This is inherently social because this is how real life works. There’s a reason you don’t talk daily with 600 of your friends, you simply don’t have enough time and people aren’t generally interesting enough for it to be worth it. You care about the people that are closest to you, and you don’t need to hear daily from anyone else.

I’m not sure quite how successful the campaign ended up being, as it did very little to spur participation, aside from providing a very useful tool for Facebook and Twitter users.

Why did Dodge’s Journey end?

Dodge Journey – “Search Engine For The Real World” from Greg Rutter on Vimeo.

Dodge created a great campaign by positioning the Dodge Journey as the search engine for the real world. The campaign was created at W+K in Portland. I think what makes it great is actually part of why it didn’t get the attention it deserves. The long-copy approach, with a calm and even voiceover talking over images of the car driving through rural America doesn’t exactly scream for attention, however it fits the tone of the campaign perfectly.

Lap giraffes stretch their necks from TV to digital

DirectTV managed to raise awareness for their TV service as well as enhance people’s pronunciation of the word ‘opulence’ all at the same time in this TV spot from Grey NY. Their russian main character may has opulence, but has also has a petite lap giraffe which spurred a whole lot of curiosity. Do Petite Lap Giraffes exist? Well, DirectTV’s advertising agency, Grey NY helped answer that question. They created Sokoblovsky Farms, a fake internet retailer of Petite Lap Giraffes. The website featured a “live-stream from the farms”, as well as some information about the little creatures and an “I Want Giraffe” button that would put you on a waiting list to receive one.

Grey smartly took the most talked-about part of a popular campaign and spun into something that would create buzz online. While the purpose for the TV ad was to raise awareness about a current discount, the website was largely to get people talking online, as well as prolong the life of their ad. The website was unbranded, adding to the intrigue and verity of the petite lap giraffe story.

Both campaigns faced challenges, particularly the original TV spot. While it is an entertaining piece of content, the message about a special offer gets over-shadowed by the broken english, funny script, and petite lap giraffe peck that ends the spot. The digital campaign was launched well after the original commercial, meaning that it faced the risk of people not remembering the original TV spot. Relying solely on the lap giraffe, with no branding whatsoever, made it extra difficult for people to make sense of the website.

Whopper Sacrifice, re-visited

While it may be 3 years old, Whopper Sacrifice is still my hands-down favorite digital campaign. It did so many things right, in a deliciously provocative way.

It exposed a very real insight: People have unwanted Facebook friends, some of which are worthy of sacrificing in order to earn a free Whopper. From a business perspective it was one of the most clever sampling programs ever. Most importantly, the campaign earned a ton of attention and while provocative, still stands as a pillar of how to be anti-social in the social space. makes streaming music truly social

There’s an up and comer in the crowded music-streaming world and it’s gaining steam fast. gives everyone a chance to DJ in a room full of crowded people, with a slight catch: patience. Once your get your chance to shine, you’re awarded DJ points as people vote on whether your music is “awesome” or “lame”. There’s a lot to be said about this particularly social breed of music streaming service that challenges the likes of Pandora,, HypeMachine, GrooveShark and the myriads of others in the space.

1) It’s a win for human beings. As complicated as Pandora’s music genome algorithm may be, it doesn’t know what you want to hear. Humans don’t necessarily either, but at least you can yell at them. This is real life after all.

2) It’s a potential win for marketers. I hate to see the marketing side in everything, but this is big. It’s the only music streaming service I’ve seen that you really need to LOOK at. If you want to DJ, you need to know when there’s a spot open. While every other major service struggles with intrusive and counter-intuitive ways to get people to look at ads, this thing is absolutely built for it.

3) It’s real-life social. Every major service allows you to share music with your friends on their existing Facebook profiles or on Twitter. You even have Spotify and Ping which have built social music communities from the ground up. The problem is, they aren’t re-inventing or changing anything. If you’re going to share music with your friend, don’t you want to be there when they hear it? Lesson learned: not everything is Facebook. People interact with different things differently. Passing around an iPod jack at a party is a real way to let people DJ but it’s a logistical nightmare. simplifies that interaction online.

4) It’s real-time, it’s social, it’s gamified, it covers a lot of these bases that are common in the digital vernacular. But it’d be nothing without the simple idea of DJing your favorite songs to a crowded room.

Your Weekly Venn: New Album Sales Model, Xbox announces live TV, and the @RANDOM film

W+K London and Kaiser Chiefs unveil new model for record sales
Together with the minds of W+K London and the cooperation of Universal Music UK, the Kaiser Chiefs released a new album that gives fans an incentive to sell their own version of the album

Why it Matters: Recently ‘name your own price’ has been the biggest disruption to the current album sales model in the music industry. This new model disregards that entirely and is a refreshing new option that enables fans to act as DJ’s and sales agents. The Kaiser Chiefs recorded 20 total tracks, so that fans that purchase the album have the ability to create their own version, using their 10 favorite tracks and their own custom-designed artwork. They are then incentivized to get people to buy their version of the album by receiving 1 british pound per album sale. To give their fans tools for the sale, each album has its own website which can be shared on Facebook and Twitter, and each fan is given banners to put on a blog or website and flyers to post around town. This new model relies heavily on the social activism that we’ve seen spread very successfully on Facebook and Twitter – but how many people will be willing to pay money to support their friend’s or even their band’s endeavors?

At E3, Microsoft announces live TV on Xbox 360
While the majority of live content is still undetermined, Microsoft specifically announced a partnership with UFC that brings interactivity to live matches.

Why it Matters Microsoft has attempted to position the Xbox 360 as much more than a gaming machine since it’s inception. The details of their partnership with the UFC show a very promising future for watching live entertainment, particularly sports games on the platforms. For instance, players are given the ability to vote on the outcome of a match, the score, etc. They can be ranked in a leader board to see which watchers are picking best. The ability to expand this level of interactivity to other types of content could truly enhance the TV-watching experience. Imagine being able to choose the line from a character on your favorite TV show or have a live discussion of your favorite drama during the commercial break with other Xbox users around the globe. Bringing interactivity to TV shows also means that brands don’t need to rely on a :30 spot to get a message across.

@RANDOM is a documentary which highlights the randomness of Tourette Syndrome
This unique documentary comprises of over 25 films that are arranged completely randomly to highlight the randomness

Why it Matters: This project scopes comprises of 2 years of work, with the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada sending camera crews, film-makers and flipcams to dozens of different families affected by Tourette’s. The footage shot for the film is moving and well done, but the format of the documentary is what really conveys the message and sets it apart from other film projects. Because the videos are arranged randomly, the video changes with each view – which means everyone sees the film differently. As explained on the site, “the range and complexity of the tics and the randomness of how they appear can be confusing for people unfamiliar with TS”. The @RANDOM documentary tackles that problem in a way that is sure to leave an impact with the viewer.

Your Weekly Venn: Intel’s Museum of Me, 3D movies slump, Facebook + Spotify

Intel teaches an old dog new tricks with the “Museum of Me”
Intel’s latest campaign uses data from your Facebook account to create a virtual exhibition of your own life.

Why it Matters: We’ve seen many examples of brands pulling in Facebook photos and status updates in order to create a customized video but we’ve never seen one that represents your personal data so comprehensively and so beautifully. For the “Museum of Me”, lntel manages to weave together pieces of your Facebook profile like friends, photos, status updates and ‘likes’ to create a virtual gallery of your life. It’s easy to forget that innovation is tied to more than technology, and this is a great example of applying creativity to an old technology (personalized videos using Facebook Connect) and creating something totally brand new and compelling.

Hollywood concerned over 3D ticket sales
North American box offices are seeing a trend in lower sales for 3D tickets right at the start of the summer blockbuster season.

Why it Matters: The success of 3D movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland created a surge in the production of 3D movies – but that surge is looking more like a bubble, waiting to be popped. The reporting of lower 3D ticket sales shows people’s savviness when it comes to spotting which movies are being offered in 3D because it really enhances the experience, vs. movies that are being offered in 3D just as a gimmick to sell higher-priced tickets. Although the data released is just an early indicator of potential 3D woes, it’s always a good strategy to make sure your 3D content actually adds something to the normal experience. Whether this translates into new ways to play a game or a new way to tell a story, it’s important that 3D is not used purely as a ‘cool visual’ or a marketing gimmick.

Facebook + Spotify = Myspace killer?
Facebook is weeks away from launching a music streaming service powered by Spotify.

Why it Matters: While Facebook has successfully blasted MySpace out of the way in terms of audience, they have yet to establish a successful music service in the way that MySpace has. This is the first we’ve heard of Facebook trying to launch a music service, and with the power of a partner like Spotify’s extensive collection of music as well Facebook’s built-in networking capabilities, it should make a big impact. As Facebook has with their gaming platform, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them partnering with other music services (like Grooveshark, at a later time as well. MySpace’s dominance in search results for music has long kept the site with consistent traffic despite it’s dwindling user base – if a competitor like Facebook becomes the first place people go to search for streaming music, then there’s a good chance MySpace will be out of the picture completely.

Your Weekly Venn: Square Register, Friskie’s cat toys, Search filters

Square seeks to replace the cash register
With the launch of Square Register for the iPad, retailers have the opportunity to process credit card transactions, but also connect with customers and maintain a lot of useful transaction data.

Why it Matters: Square launched their first product to enable small businesses to swipe credit cards. With this product launch, they are looking to improve the already existing infrastructure of any retailer. The Square Register makes it easier to maintain a collection of data that can tell a story about your consumers on a very macro and micro scale. Because Square stores your payment information, it allows consumers to put a purchase on their ‘tab’, eliminating the physical transfer of money altogether. While it will take time for this technology to be implemented and the service to be widespread, there are great opportunities here when it comes to loyalty programs and CRM.

Friskie’s goes after it’s true core consumer: the cat
Friskie’s released iPad games made specifically for cats – amusing and delighting owners everywhere.

Why it Matters: This app shows just how important knowing your target market is. Cat owners everywhere now have a free toy that their cat can play with, and while it may seem like a frivolous toy, it represents a deeper understanding and concern over their target market than any of their competitors. In a way, it’s a product extension in and of itself. No matter what you’re selling – it’s smart to look at digital platforms as more than just a means of promotion and instead as a place to extend your product and invent new ones.

Are filters and recommendation engines limiting people’s overall perspective?
Both Google and Facebook have worked hard at building algorithms that tailor search & news feed information to the things you’re most likely to interact with.

Why it Matters: Web tools like Facebook, Google and Netflix are all tailoring experiences to you automatically based on your click behavior. In many cases, personal relevance is outweighing actual relevance, and as a result this is automatically filtering or limiting what you’re able to see. On Google Search for example, a result that’s been shared by a friend may jump ahead of search results that are actually more relevant to what you’re searching for. While curating results and tailoring a web experience is beneficial in most cases, it is also restrictive, limiting, and in some cases duplicitous or greedy. The problem is that companies aren’t transparent in the way they go about it and most lack the option of turning the auto-filter off.

Your Weekly Venn: Google, Lady Gaga in Farmville, DIY makers revolution

Google & Danger Mouse break ground with music video experience
Another Google Chrome Experiment pushes the boundaries of what can be done within a browser – this time rendering an interactive 3D environment in the form of a music video.

Why it Matters: This Chrome Experiment is a great example of what the future of interactive content will be. It’s not quite a website, and not quite a video – and if anything it resembles most closely a video game. While it’s a technological win for Google Chrome (because their browser is the only one that supports this type of experience) it’s an even more interesting win for content. As digital platforms evolve, there will be new ways to interact with video content. This interactive film sets the bar for what’s next, which could be anything from a full-length movie to a :30 commercial.

Lady Gaga brings her ‘monsters’ to Farmville
In order to promote her new album, Lady Gaga partnered with Farmville to bring a Gaga-themed farm to life within the game. Instead of pigs their are unicorns, and if you farmers will receive include downloads from her new album instead of the normal virtual goods.

Why it Matters: Some could argue that Lady Gaga is one of the most savvy and effective digital marketers since Barak Obama. This morning she reached over 10,000,000 twitter followers and her first album is one of the best-selling digital albums ever. She’s clearly earned herself more marketing dollars for her new album, and it’s interesting to see that one of her team’s major promotions is on Farmville. While it’s worth questioning which brand is benefitting the most here (as Gaga’s fans will certainly follow her to Farmville if they aren’t already there), the comprehensive approach that Zynga is offering up (i.e. the ability to re-inforce branding, get fans engaged, and provide samples of her tracks) is perhaps the most appealing and impressive benefit of the partnership.

Open-source industrialists create tools for all
Manufacturing in the USA is making a come back, and it’s led by engineers that are empowering the masses by creating simple DIY kits that allow anyone to master personal manufacturing.

Why it Matters: Innovations like 3D Printers and DIY electronic kits like Littlebits and Arduino are creating a new type of consumer: one that hacks together the things they need rather than buy it. The website is already one example of open-source manufacturing, and as DIY kits evolve and 3D printing becomes more prevalent, the ability to build everyday products won’t require nearly as much expertise or cost. Along with cracking the code on common products, we should expect a surge in consumer-generated products. There’s a vast opportunity out there for a brand to take advantage of this space, either by helping facilitate the discussion, engineering their own DIY kits, or even publishing directions for creating or modifying their products.

Your Weekly Venn: Ben & Jerry’s, Aviary’s new API, Foursquare & NFC

This week’s examination of the intersection between technology, creativity and advertising.

If a week’s wait is too long, you can experience the venn in real-time by following me on twitter.

Ben & Jerry’s allows Twitter users to donate left-over characters
In an effort to raise awareness for World Fair Trade Day, Ben & Jerry’s developed a tool that appends links to Fair Trade content using the left-over characters in your tweets.

Why it Matters: While people use Twitter for a multitude of reasons, one of it’s most publicized uses is to spread the word about a cause. It’s not easy to amass a large following in a quick period of time, so rather than create one central Twitter handle for World Fair Trade Day, Ben & Jerry’s enabled Twitter users everywhere to help spread their message. The technology-based approach uses an algorithm to determine what message it can append to the end of a tweet based on how many characters are left over. Like any charity this campaign relies on the generosity of people, but the innovative concept alone has already been able to garner a lot of buzz.

Instagram, Hipstamatic effects now easily replicated with the release of Aviary’s ‘effects’ API
Aviary’s photo effects API levels the playing field for camera-app developers and makes it easy to integrate photo effects functionality for non-camera apps.

Why it Matters: Developers will now easily be able to add a photo-editing layer that replicate the common filters seen in apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram. In case all the images in your social feed aren’t sepia-toned or over-exposed enough, it’s likely you’ll be seeing a lot more in the future. While the API release could result in a lot of Instagram clones, there’s a bigger, more important story here: non-camera apps can now give it’s users the ability to add effects to their photos easily, so you might see interesting uses by gaming, entertainment, or utility apps.

Google runs first test of NFC Foursquare check-ins
Google’s annual developer conference will feature NFC markers that allow people to check-in to Foursquare by tapping in at a physical location.

Why it Matters: Although NFC has been slow to gain adoption in smartphones in the US, the technology is already available in the newest Android devices and is rumored to be integrated into the next iPhone. NFC ‘tap-ins’ have been a feature on Foursquare’s app since it’s March release, but there haven’t been any publicly available NFC markers for people to check-in to. In order for NFC tap-ins to scale to a wider audience, more people need NFC on their smartphones, and every foursquare location needs a NFC marker to tap-in to. The fact that an Android developers conference is the first public use of the system shows that there are still many technological and logistical hurdles before it’s use could become mainstream.


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