More on my Second Life

I logged into Second Life again to check out some advertising opportunities last night. Some pretty cool potential. Adidas has a store that you can visit and check out their shoes. You can buy a virtual pair (I think they cost the equivalent of 50 cents in real money) and there are links to a store finder web page that launch a browser. The potential there to connect virtual brand experirences to real life commerce opportunites is pretty limitless.

I was particularly jealous of ad agency BBH (Bartles, Bogle & Hegarty). They've created a virtual agency with little meeting spaces and their portfolio hanging on the wall. Why use online conferencing software like WebEx? You can have your avators meet at the virtual agency. I'll put it on my Amazon Wish List for Traction.

Also, in the interest of trend-spotting, there's a new term that is going to be part of the internet lexicon in a few years. A "Yard Sale" is a collection of virtual junk, primarily digital sex toys to use in cyber-sex games, that are strewn about somebody's "yard" that you can browse and buy. I kid you not. One of the filters to help you find places in Second Life where there are others to interact with is by viewing a list of Events. About half of these Events are Yard Sales. Maybe two-thirds. Watch for "Yard Sale" on a buzzword list near you (I predict Wired will get this one in about 6 months).

So, Second Life is cool. There's lots of opportunities for both marketers and pornographers. Web 2.0, eat your heart out.

But, I've seen the future.

Last week's Newsweek has an article on Microsofts new 3D version of Google Earth. Assuming your on Windows (which I'm not), you can use your xBox joystick to zoom through real 3D versions of cities. Every building in San Francisco is rendered and even has textures placed on them. Banners ads and live traffic alerts hover in the air. Microsoft has fleets of trucks on the street right now taking millions of high res photos of every major city in the US to add more and more detail to this. Clearly, Microsoft will be a latecomer to the community/gaming aspect of this, but how difficult is it to see the writing on the wall here. Once they've got a 3D map of the real world, they can add avatars just like in Second Life. You will be able to visit Barcelona, scope out the neighborhood around your hotel, check out restaurants, meet real people, whatever. All with locally relevant banner ads and interactive brand experiences dynamically served up to woo you.

Fifiteen years ago, most of us didn't even have a computer. My god. What are we in for?

A Technique for Producing Ideas

I just read this great little book (an hour cover-to-cover little) called A Technique for Producing Ideas. Someone handed it to me and I'll be handing it to our Creative Directors tomorrow. In a really simple way, it codifies the process for producing ideas (in advertising, but really could apply anywhere). So simple, that I will attempt to recap in its entirety by memory.

First, this is based on the premise that new ideas are really combinations of old ideas and that the ability to see relationships enables us to create new ideas based from those combinations. Re-read that. It's important.

Then he sets out a 5 step process to create ideas.

1. Gather materials. He breaks this into two categories and notes that this is where most people in the idea-making business cut corners and therefore fall short. Category one is specific. Really get to know your product. Dig deep. Reading a creative brief isn't an end-all-be-all. Taste it. Touch it. Use it. Watch others use it. Read the ingredients list. Read research. Immerse yourself. As a useful tip, he suggests writing tidbits down on 3x5 cards. Personally, I'm a fan of big pads. Category two is a lifelong endeavor. Have a box or file that you throw things that inspire you into. Ads, photos, brochures, bubble gums wrappers, fortune cookie fortunes... when your drinking buddy says something profound at 1:00 AM, scribble it on a bar napkin and throw it in the file. I'd like to think this file. I'd like to think this blog is part of my file.

2. Take all your 3x5 cards. Mix and match them. Look for relationships. You're not looking for ideas here. You're looking for half-baked ideas, snippets of ideas, interesting thoughts that could maybe, maybe not become fodder for ideas later on. Quality is not important here. Write them all down. Do it until you're tired. Then do it some more.

3. Go to the movies. Take a nap.

4. Pop. An idea will come into your head, usually when you least expect it. Write this down and bask in your genius.

5. Share your idea with others. Probably isn't quite as genius as you first thought in step four, but ideas are cultivated not grown. A good idea will inspire others to add to them. Be prepared to let them evolve.

That's it. Recipe for creative genius. Certainly worth an hour of your life if you're in this biz.


My Second Life

I signed up for Second Life this weekend to see what all the hoopla is about. A lot of marketers are getting ink by doing campaigns inside this virtual world. Adidas did a campaign in Second Life. Starwood Hotels launched a chain of hotels. Sun just had a virtual press conference. Gotta keep on my toes.

This is like Doom meets MySpace meets Yahoo Chat. Plus, you can actually spend money there. You enter Second Life and use the arrow keys to walk around a 3D virtual world. You can grab stuff, chat or IM with people and do funny gestures and it's all pretty intuitive. I'm not a gamer at all, but I managed to lose two hours of my life on Saturday. Of course, the pervs have been the first to move in here. There's strip clubs and "mature" events pretty much all over the map. I visited a night club (ok, I checked out the strip club first) with a "live DJ" called Voodoo Lounge. I followed instructions to make my avatar dance on the dance floor, but then I left the dance floor and couldn't get him to stop dancing. So, already I'm a virtual social misfit.

Anyhow, in this club was a sign: "Click here for a free Voodoo Lounge jacket." Bam. Advertisers—wake up! Say I'm Coke. I could give away a Coke jacket. And everyone who encounters my character in this world will see this ad for Coke on my virtual back.

I had a debate with Theo on Sunday. He said he checked it out, but he wasn't impressed with the graphics and thought it generally sucked. But, he doesn't hang out in chat rooms either, and about 300,000,000 people do. I think the not-so-state-of-the-art graphics is what's going to make this a huge success. A lot of user-generated-video-start-ups tried to figure out how to get high quality video distributed online. YouTube said, screw quality, let's get it up there. YouTube won.

More on Web 2.0 Summit

This is a guest post from Traction's very own Director of Strategy, Ronan Dunlop, who surreptitiously used my conference pass to check out Jeff Bezos and a few others at the Web 2.0 Summit in SF last week (or was it the week before?).


I caught part of the Web2.0 conference. On reading many of the posts during and after the event, it occurred to me that a prerequisite to being a Web 2.0 pundit is to find flaws in how people and companies are going about implementing 2.0.

Two things that jump to mind are the criticisms of Amazon and Salesforce.com’s initiatives to enable people and business to capitalize on the opportunities of Web2.0 by leveraging their infrastructure.

Some see Amazon’s effort to provide computing power and complete supply chain infrastructure on a usage basis as a sign that they are struggling and Salesforce.com’s mash-up incubator idea as a thinly veiled ploy to charge someone else for the privilege of being an extension of their own R&D team.

I see it differently. Both Bezos and Benioff are inveterate entrepreneurs. They have seen an opportunity to make money from byproducts of their business. Their instincts led them to capitalize on it. How is this different than cattle farms providing manure to PG&E to create energy or a chicken farm making money from selling chicken feathers? It simply sounds like good business to me.

Web 2.0 is not about altruism or community love. These companies are providing services that you have to pay for. They have no idea how much money they will make from this. They hope they will. The more the better and anything they do make is gravy. The fact that these byproducts are 2.0 in nature is fascinating. They are made possible by web2.0 and are enabling everything from bricks and mortar to more 2.0 ideas.

I think what they are doing is brilliant in its simplicity. But nothing has changed. At heart 2.0 is a mash-up of ideas and technology tools – the same as 1.0. 2.0 is the same religion, with the same populist spin and with the same cast of characters as 1.0. The ‘old-testament’ style crash of not so long ago, challenged our faith. But we all need religion it seems, so now we have Web 2.0. A new testament of sorts, built on the ruble of our excesses while deriving its strength from the plebian masses.

Something as dumb and simple as Youtube is a prime example. Youtube is unsophisticated, simple to rig (so that your video gets to the top of the pile) a productivity drain on the workforce and a moneymaking conundrum – in other words it looks like vintage Web 1.0. But who am I to argue with $1.65 billion purchase price or Google’s $12 billion stock surge post stock swap.

The king is dead, long live the king.


Web 2.0 Summit

Thanks to our new client, CMP Media, I was able to get my hands on a much-sought-after ticket to the exclusive Web 2.0 Conference this week (described in the pages of Business Week as "the annual gathering of the digerati creme"). Here's my take...

Day One

Showed up 15 minutes late because I couldn't find a cab this morning. Session I wanted (Marketing: Where Are We Now?) was so crowded, I couldn't even squeeze into the room to stand in back. So were the next two rooms I checked. Finally settled on "Using Gadgets and Macros to Your Advantage" which had about 14 people in the audience. It was basically a couple of guys from Microsoft showing off their new Windows Live version of Google Maps. Shameless plug for their own crap. It was really refreshing. Completely renewed my disdain for Microsoft. Crown glory moment was when Windows crashed in the middle of their presentation.

Next up, "Advertising 2.0." Got a seat this time. A panel hosted by the CEO of About.com. Very impressive group, particularly Adam Gerber from Brightcove.

Third and best workshop I attended today, however, was "How the Net Generation Changes Marketing and Management" with Don Tapscott, CEO of a think tank called New Paradigm and writer of a bunch of books. He just did a bunch of research on the Echo generation (the children of the Baby Boomers) and presented it in the session. He uses the term Net Generation to describe young people between the ages of 4 and 25 because this is the first generation to grow up with the internet. To them, "technology is like air," it's just part of their natural living environment and because of their lifelong exposure to it, these kids actually process information differently than any generation before it.