This blog

So, I'm having a contest at the agency to help me come up with a name for this blog. The winner gets a round of my famous Cosmos delivered to them at their desk. So far, the candidates are:

Diary of an Adman (this is my favorite, since Diary of a Madman was my first Ozzy album and I listened to it every day when I was in 7th grade. Of course it's taken on blogspot, so I might have to move my blog).

Thoughts from the hot shop.

User generated cosmopolitains.

Buzzword detox.

Don't blog the charmin.

Fustercluck 2.0

Wrapped in a div.

Scatterbrained and searchable.

Why Does it Hurt When I Pee.

Joes AdPartment.











Adamuses - combo of adam and muses












says adam

adam adds

adamadman (read: adam ad man - as opposed to ad a mad man - it works both ways I guess)

admanadam (or also ad man adam)

bladam (which could be Adam's new catch phrase whenever he has a new idea - like emeril's BAM!)



blah di blog



madadam (works if you read it left to right and right to left)

adamanium (it's a whole new element in the periodoc chart - a but like adamantium, but cooler)

Nunzi 2.0


What do you think?


Pastrami on rye

I ate pastrami sandwiches tooday with Joe Kennedy, the CEO of Pandora. Great, really interesting guy. If you haven't heard of Pandora you should check it out. It's a website that helps you discover music you like based on what music you already like. It's like a personalized radio station, just for you.

I met Joe 6 months or a year ago when Traction was trying to get our client, Virgin Mobile, to marry their song recognition feature with Pandora's music recommendation service. Virgin Mobile already has a service where you can hold up your phone when you hear a song you like, dial *99 (or something) and you'll get an SMS in a few minutes with the name and artist. Now, imagine you could add that song, and others "genetically similar" to it, to a personalized radio station that streamed music to you over your mobile phone. And, of course, the ability to purchase that MP3 with a couple of clicks.

Anyhow, that was the idea. Virgin didn't bite, but I still think it was an awesome idea. Joe gave me a tour of Pandora and the Human Genome Project after that and now we're friends.

We spent lunch talking about branding. Joe was the VP of Marketing at Saturn back when they were redefining what a car company should be. In my humble opinion, that makes Joe somewhat of an authority on the subject of brand building (no matter how modest he is about it). Last time we met, he made the comment that "nobody knows how to build a brand anymore" and it really stuck with me, so I asked him to get together and elaborate.

Some stuff we talked about:

1. The idea that the best brands are the ones that have iconic leaders and a real story to tell. He talked about the guy who ran Saturn and the founder of Pandora. Of course, there's the Steve Jobses and Richard Bransons of the world. We talked about how Dell had that kind of leader in Mike Dell, but neglected to tell a story and missed an opportunity to create a great brand—and are now facing stiff competition in a market that they commoditized.

I brought up a Cornell alumni wine industry event I attended a few months back. The guest speaker was Roy Danis, the marketing guy behind Yellow Tail wine. Telling the Yellow Tail story, Roy showed an aerial photo of the tiny little vineyard with the farmhouse where the guy who makes the wine lived back in like 1987. Then, same overhead angle, about 9 years later: 10X bigger vineyard, same farmhouse, same guy living in it. Cut to 2004. Friggin' crazy-giant mega-plantation, same farmhouse, same guy living in it. Now, consumers don't know this story, but the fact that this guy exists, that he is so part and parcel of Yellow Tail that he still lives in the little farmhouse, is what makes the people that are that company believe they are part of something greater than just another winery. I think it's the same kind of thing that happened with Saturn. It was about more than metal, glass and plastic.

2. We talked about engagement. We had both seen the same article in the New York Times a while back declaring "engagement" was the new awareness. Joe's take on it is that in today's world, marketers cannot talk at their customers, they have to talk with them. Marketing today is a conversation, not a speech. I've been saying to clients lately that I think engagement is all well and good, but without relevance it has no value. I think Joe is right on. Conversation means give and take, which equals engagement with relevance. It's what this whole Web 2.0 phenomenom is about and why it is so important to marketers right now.

3. He told me one of the keys to Saturn's success in those years was that Hal (Riney) was incredibly blunt and they were a client who was willing to listen to someone who was incredibly blunt. I felt good about that one. One of our key company values at Traction is candor (with each other and with our clients). Personally, I have absolutely no filter between my brain and my mouth at all. Made me feel like we're on the right track.

Oh, and if you haven't tried it Miller's East West Deli on Polk Street in San Francisco has the absolute best hot pastrami sandwich in town. And, please, you eat pastrami on rye, okay? It's just the way things are.


The User-Generated Content Chronicles: Microsoft

The Evil Empire (are they still evil now that Bill has gone all Mother Theresa on us?)has created an entire site dedicated to user-generated video called Soapbox. The site is in limited Beta right now, so you can't see it (except for the groovy screenshot below). Kind of looks like a YouTube ripoff with a couple of "unique" features. I'll start holding my breath right about now...


The User-Generated Content Chronicles: BEA looks for liquid

I'm actually surprised to find that a number of B2B marketers are soliciting content from their customers. I don't know why. Just kind of always thought of these guys as the type to be late-adopters when it comes to innovative marketing ideas.

Anyhow, BEA is asking people to nominate Liquid Thinkers for a chance to win groovy prizes like a year's supply of water for your office or $500 donation to your favorite charity. Presumably, they'll use these nominees in a ad campaign. I don't know how "Web 2.0" this idea is, but it is pretty neat. Maybe I'm just enamored by all their pretty red liquid pictures.

The User-Generated Content Chronicles: HP gets personal

HP has a microsite where you are asked to upload a photo to "star in your own commercial" for HP. It then uses this crazy software to center your face and animate your mouth so you look like you're talking. It's the creepiest thing I have ever seen. Of course, I was completely mesmerized. This is my 3-year old girl.

It then links to another site that let's you look at products, check out the ads from the campaign (are people interested in looking at this, or is the gang over at Goodby so egomaniacal that they have convinced their client that people are interested in looking at this?), or check out other promos.


More on IBM's take of user-generated content. Check out the blog post and podcast interview from PodTech.


The User_Generated Content Chronicles: IBM and your cheeks

Now, here's user-generated content (UGC) taken to a new level. IBM has a program going with National Geographic called the "Genographic Project." Most marketers who have dabbled with UGC ask their online communities to submit a video or a design or to write something. IBM and Nat'l G. are asking for participants to submit a cheek swab to help map global DNA patterns. They're actually selling the kits to swab your cheeks with for a hundred bucks. Interesting, but bizarre.

Interesting that IBM is also trying to share their marketing with the masses, by making it fun. Check out System i Cafe and Angus the IT Chap. This is separate and distinct to the "System i Resource Center" that lives on their website.


The User-Generated Content Chronicles: Firefox Films

I'm doing some research for a client who is considering dabbling with user-generated content (that's all I can tell you or I'd have to kill you). Thought I'd post some stuff here.

Mozilla has a site called Firefox Flicks that's only been promoted via word-of-mouth. They've created a home for fans of the browser to submit a 30 second spot or a video podcast. They don't seem to say how many submissions they've had, but one blog post I found said they had 280 submissions as of April 28, 2006.

Also, check out this post on iPlot about "Crowdsourcing." Lots of good references, including our old client, Marketocracy.



My good pal, Dave Smith, over at Mediasmith, just sent out his latest issue of the Anvil. Smart cookie, that Dave. He talks about measuring engagement online. Says marketers need to stop looking at CPMs (cost-per-thousands) and start looking at CPWs (cost-per-whatever you are trying to measure).

Sell that to the metrics junkies out there in marketing land.


Comm Arts Interactive Annual 2

Is this the same bat station? Wow. Guess it is.
    State Farm: nowwhat.com
  1. This is kind of relevant for me because I just sat down with a big agency in town we've done some work for (won't say which one, but I will say it's pretty drafty in here) and I guess consulted with them about what's the latest in online advertising for a pitch they are giving to a major insurance industry client. The client is a metrics junkie and won't invest in anything that does not directly show proven ROI. Not exactly visionary stuff, but this site is a good example of how a company can provide a branded experience that provides value and a chance to connect with people AND direct response opportunities (Get a quote, etc.) that "justify" the cost for marketers with metrics on the brain.

  2. Delayed response: If you click on a page and don't do anything after about 30 seconds you get to watch a little disaster (a tree falls on your car, TV blows up in your apartment).

  3. Wasn't too impressed with how they pulled some it off graphically (inconsistent shadows, an llustrated dent in your car that doesn't match the photo it's supposed to be part of), but I'm a tough audience. Don't think my wife would make that comment.

    Mini: Roof Studio
  1. I've seen this site before, and I gotta tell you, I just don't get it. I mean, I know technically, it's pretty impressive and it is all "ooh, aah, user-generated content," but what goood is user-generated content if no one gives a shit about the content.

  2. Click to view roof: But this is supposed to be about details. When you roll over cars, it has copy instructions telling you what to do next. Good UI element. Also like that the UI copy follows your mouse. Nice touch.

  3. Cursor Help On/Off: I also like that you can shut this feature off if it bugs you.

  4. Hidden navigation being site logo (ROOFSTUDIO): Again, this shows respect for your audience by saying, we know you're intelligent enough to find this if you need it.

  5. Rollover sounds: little tap-taps add to visual rollover cues.


Comm Arts Interactive Annual

Comm Arts Interactive Annual is out. Here's my review of the details that make this stuff awesome (or doesn't). This is the less obvious stuff that shows smart thinking.
    BMW: The All-New 3
  1. Polite Full-screen: The site expands to full screen, but not until you click on the lin: Just a couple of secs, but it's a nice technique to introduce the brand experience.

  2. Expandable/Collapsable Nav: Again, nice, slick UI element, says "we know our users are not morons."

  3. Load screens: Brand messages while your waiting to load.

  4. Benefits, not features: A copywriter obvioulsy worked on the navigation (sleeker, faster, safer, etc.).

    GE: Geoterra
  1. Little people: There's nothing subtle about what makes this site great. It's just fun. Lots of details, but if I was going to name one I like best, it's the little people hanging out on the bottom of the interface.

  2. UI Builds: No such thing as pop-up box here. Each "pop-up" has an elegant animated build to it. Really nice.

  3. Washing Machine game: I don't have time for this shit. Web games that are actually fun to play. Cut it out, I got work to do.

  1. Navigation instructions: While you're waiting for the content to load, you are given useful how-to info. In my humble opinion, one of the smartest elements of effective UI design is the effective use of copy.

  2. OK, tried to use these instructions (it said drag the sandal to navigate) and what they told me to do didn't work. Piss me the hell off.

  3. This site's too Flash heavy to work on my Powerbook, two thumbs down. Outta here.

    Infiniti: Interactive mirrors
  1. Hard to tell from these screen shots, but this technology is cool as hell for trade shows. Traction is actually partnering with Delphi Productions to create one of these kiosks right now for one of their clients. This is Minority Report stuff, kids.

    Scion: Owners' Manual
  1. What's great about this is not so much the creative, but that it was created to solve a business problem. Scion wanted to reduce calls to their help desk, so they created a CD-ROM as a supplement to their Owners' Manual

  2. A trend here: Again, cool UI builds on new pages

  3. Time labels: Whenever they have a link to a video, they show how long that video will be. Lets the user know what they're signing up for by clicking.

    Nike: Jumpman23
  1. Love the curtains.

  2. Music: I've noticed on almost all of these sites I've been looking at, they're not afraid to use music to convey emotion. This one, however, doesn't have a shut off switch, particularly bad form here because the music qulaity was shit and really annoying.

  3. Top nav: Nicely designed navigation at the top of the page, but I didn't see it. Kind of makes it useless.

  4. Thumbnails: Not to be a nitpicky ass, but the thumbnail images on the Lifestyle page were obviously bitmaps they scaled down in Flash. May not be a big deal to the untrained eye, but if you do this stuff for a living, you should know better. Just lazy.

    Nestea Ice
  1. Each page has tons of kooky shit. Mexican wrestlers, rapping ice cube puppets. Great details all over the place

  2. Rollover "Retrieve Photo" and the photo falls down.

  3. Monty Python Style: Juxtaposed b-and-w photos with illustration. Just good. "Retrieve Photo" and the photo falls down.

  4. Ice Polls: Little hand with wings tells you to "Select an answer" (good UI copy). When you roll over the poll options the little rollover sound says "bling."

  5. Death or Fresno?: Made me laugh.

  6. Baby got back: When you roll over the back button it says "baby got back."

To be continued...


Traction and SubTraction in the news

The San Francisco Examiner did a piece on Traction (the agency I run) and SubTraction (the creative staffing agency we started) this morning. Actually, they did two pieces: their weekly Profile and Campaign of the Week. I can't link to it because for some reason it's not on the Examiner's website, but you can see the work in our portfolio if you click here.

It was a nice article on us article, but I'm not sure I'll ever live down the headline...

Adam Kleinberg: Staffing is his secret weapon


Sun gets branding

I spent the morning at a "Brand Training Event" for Sun Microsystems. They're one of our clients. I think it's pretty cool to see a company do stuff like this around their brand. One of the guys (Ronan Dunlop) from Traction wha was with me. worked on the Sun account at Lowe & Partners about 10 years ago and says Sun was a completely different world back then. They used to say things like, "We don't care about brand. We know who we are." Great, but do your customers?

Well, it seems like they do now (Sun recently got a lot of press when they surpassed Dell to become #3 in the server market). I was talking to Sun's creative director, Glenn Martinez, this morning and he told me that he got Scott McNealy to buy into the brand vision thing by describing it as a science: branding is the engineering of perception. That was something the tech guys could grasp and in the last three years the company has completely taken control of their brand.

They've also got a cool new audio logo. You'll hear it soon. (yes, that is my first bit of breaking blog news)

Business Deve-lush-ment

I love this story:

Alcohol use helps boost income: study

This seems eerily reminiscent of the business development we've used to build Traction over the last 5 years. Hmmmm.


Browser Blur

So, just to recap. This is my list of the online trends that marketers need to know about.

We had:

1. User-Generated Content (big surprise there)

2. Rich Internet Applications (popping up all over the place, but not on most marketers radars yet)

and finally...

3. Browser Blur. What, you ask, the hell is browser blur? New buzzword. I just made it up. You heard it here first kids.

Because of Trend #2 (RIAs) applications that have traditionally lived on the desktop are moving online. Salesforce.com takes credit for starting this trend (not exactly how it happened I believe, but Perception is one of the Immutable Laws of Marketing). Companies like Google, Microsoft and AOL and dozens upon dozens of startups are tripping over themselves to build or buy these applications. You're seeing word processors, calendars, even video editing tools, popping up all over the place. And because they're web-based, they can offer collaboration features like document sharing that desktop apps can't.

On the other end of the spectrum, you've got apps that deliver content via RSS feeds to the desktop without a browser. iTunes for one. Apple widgets are another that marketers are already taking advantage of. Slide has a toolbar that sits on your desktop and has photos slide by, fed from whatever site you want -- whether it's your friends' Flickr feeds, or things you want to buy on eBay. Traction is partnering with a company called ScreenAngels right now to create rich, personalized, brand experiences right on users' desktops.

The point here is that the lines are blurring. But, in that haze, there's great little opportunities for brands to reach consumers all over the place. Luckily, now you're prepared.

Rich Internet Applications

2. Rich Internet Applications. The next item on my trends in online marketing list is RIAs. This is what AJAX is all about. Adobe Flex too. Best way to explain it is by example. Think about your typical e-commerce transaction. You browse from one page to the next looking for a pair of pants you want to buy. Then maybe you go to another page and they've got colors, buttonfly or zipper, whatever. Then you add the item to your cart. Then you go to your cart. Then you go to checkout. Then you go to create a profile. So, you'e been to like 47 pages and now you've got a pair of pants. Terrific. Lot of pages though.

Now, your forward-thinking, customer-centric online retailer comes along and his agency says there's a better way. Your customer shouldn't have to go from page to page, they should be able to pick out there pants, decorate, see what they've got in their cart, buy it, all at once. And they should be able to do it the same way they use the rest of their computer—by dragging and dropping and using sliders and such.

Here's a great prototype of one of these done right using Flex.

Click me.

Why is this so important? I just saw data from a Forrester research study showing that conversions can increase by as much as 50% when RIAs are used for shopping carts. Kind of speaks for itself.

So, right now you've got Yahoo and Google and all the major players starting to add these little apps to their sites. These guys are the leaders and people are going to follow. Over the next couple of years, companies that can combine marketing savvy with smart user interface design are going to have a big competitive advantage. And happy customers. (by the way, Traction is really good at this stuff).

In my opinion, the entire internet is going to be rebuilt. Boom.

Niemen Marcus has a piano player to give customers a better shopping experience. At Walmart I think it's the Blue Light Special (I'm not sure because I've only been in a Walmart once and that was at 10:30 at night to get a fishing license because we were going catfish hunting). Every brand thinks about how to make the customer experience better in retail stores. How can they do that online? This is it.

Ad Week Hot List

As if to confirm my thumb on the pulse of industry, I just picked up the latest copy of AdWeek. In their annual Web Site Hot List, 4 out of the top 10 sites they list feature user-generated content.

User-Generated Content

OK, so back to my trend list.

1. User-Generated Content. I had coffee with Ron Bloom over at Podshow close to a year ago. I worked for Ron and Adam Curry (MTV VJ now calls himself "The Podfather") when they ran Think New Ideas in the late 90s. Ron says to me "In five years, the majority of entertainment is going to be user-generated." We were having a conversation about podcasting at the time, but with the rise of YouTube, MySpace, Yadda, Yadda and Yadda, it's looking like maybe he wasn't too far off.

Now user-generated content means a lot of things, but basically it's all about harnessing the power of the collective consiousness of the web. That covers a lot of territory:
- online communities
- video/music/photo/review sharing sites (from Amazon to PornoTube)
- the notion of "tagging" (where users rate and/or rank content)
- blogs, podcasts, mobile blogs, rss feeds
- brands getting their customers to submit content (Converse did this two years ago by asking people to create TV spots and then actually running some of them. The entire Coke website is now all about content submitted by users).
- Google AdSense (uses an algorith based on user behavior to determine placement of ads)
I'm sure I'm missing dozens, but you get the point.

Stay tuned....

AK Fresh 2.0

So, I decided after a while AK Fresh was an incredibly stupid name, so it's gone. BlogTraction is pretty lame, but I'm just gonna leave it at that until I'm inspired.

Made a discovery this morning. What's the one good thing about having to get up with a crying baby at 5am every day? It's a great time to actually post to your blog. Maybe I'll actually do this.

So, got an email from the Web 2.0 Expo looking for an agency to do a campaign for them. They found Traction online and liked our work. I was talking to someone about it and they asked "What is Web 2.0 anyway?" For a split second, I looked at him like he just asked me "What is a banana anyway?" Quickly, I realized .oO( Boy, just because the closest thing I have to a hobby is reading advertising, technology and business magazines in the can, doesn't mean this stuff is mainstream. )

And of course, I didn't have an eloquent definition at the ready for him, because this stuff is murky territory.

So, for the uninitiated, this is what you need to know.

1. People really like to argue and wax poetic about what Web 2.0 is, what Web 2.0 means, and whether or not Web 2.0 really exists.

That being the case, I'm gonna just skip it and talk about a few trends in technology that affect what advertisers, marketers and/or web developers need to know and understand these days.

Shit. The baby woke up. I guess that will be my next post.