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OK Go fights for their right to party embed their own videos

ok go

OK Go are master choreographers, and they know how to play the low-budg homemade video game–they launched their career on it. On their first it was treadmills; on their latest, it’s an elaborate and well-timed Rube Goldberg setup. Here it goes again indeed:

With a knack for knowing what will go viral, they rode their Youtube promotional model to success and recognition–“To the band, ‘Here It Goes Again’ was a successful creative project. To the record company [EMI], it was a successful, completely free advertisement,” says lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash, Jr. in a recent New York Times op-ed sending up the band’s label for misguidedly disabling the embed feature on the band’s Youtube videos in an attempt to eke out additional revenue. (Youtube only pays royalties for those videos viewed on the site, not those that are embedded.) The move fundamentally misunderstands the function and potential of Youtube in today’s cultural (and musical) landscape, and is merely one in a long string of embarrassing failures by a hopelessly outdated and pig-headed recording industry blundering indignantly and ever-insistently towards obsolescence.

The old music business model’s inability to accept, embrace, and leverage technology and the changing ways in which people are discovering , sharing, and interacting with music is a tired subject by now (and it’s not to say that some artists and labels are not learning to approach the changing business with enthusiasm, innovation, and aplomb), but Kulash lucidly argues his point : “In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late.”

As of two days ago, EMI (which has a mortifying track record of desperate, just-doesn’t-get-it, artist-and-fan-alienating gaffes) has allowed OK Go’s videos to be embedded–but not because the label concedes the error of its ways. Rather, the band has secured a sponsorship from State Farm Insurance (huh??) which will allow them to embed with the sanction of EMI, which, while it’s something, does nothing to resolve the fundamental issue, and further encourages the label’s blind and ignorant drive to monetize–ironically, at all costs.

Read the rest of Kulash’s great op-ed, which goes on to question the shifting role of the label in music and the detrimentally-morphing artist-label relationship, at the New York Times.

And lastly, here’s the video that made them famous:


Tweet it into reality: Sony Ericsson’s hoppers and popcorn poppers
February 9, 2010, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , , ,


I saw both of these within a day of each other and was struck by the curious ways online activities can be brought to life, visualized, or given meaning in the physical world through interactivity. In this case, it’s how activity on Twitter being translated into something tangible and easy to digest (in one case, quite literally—yikes, guys.)

In the first, Sony Ericsson, as a part of a larger Spark Something campaign to promote their new Satio and Aino handsets, a Hopper Invasion campaign urged people to tweet what they’d like to use a hopper (a roly-poly, colorful character) for, and to use the #pumpt hashtag in their tweet. Corresponding to the use of the hashtag, deflated hopper balloons arranged on a physical grid in a “secret warehouse” were inflated in a visualization of hopper-oriented Twitter activity, all streamed on the campaign website—real-time visualized buzz. The best suggestions taken from Twitter will be brought to life in the real world, filmed, and posted online.

The campaign has further interwoven the physical and the digital by inviting audiences to create unique hopper personas, which have in turn taken part in a series of virtual flashmobs on pages all over the internet—an act the company touts as the world’s first online flashmob. In the next phase of the campaign, says Global Marketing Communications Manager Andrea Heinrich, “the concept [goes] one stage further allowing users to take the concept offline and create real life space hoppers which will be used in real life events.” Making the digital real, and vice-versa, is not a bad idea for a company that uses technology to connect people and ideas.


In Popcorn Tweets, essentially a social media virtual Flintstones car, Twitter enables “human-powered physical computing” to cook popcorn. In a device built by Dave Britt and Justin Goeres, a kernel of corn is placed on a heated surface every time the #popcorn tag is used on Twitter, producing popcorn as fast as people tweet it so.

It’s interesting to see online activity made real, but given the strengths and innate character of a networking medium like Twitter, there is an opportunity to see the online communities engendered by social media translated into real world communities as well. Although not necessary to a successful execution, it’d be cool to see the community aspect incorporated to a greater degree in each of these ideas in order to more comprehensively leverage the medium.

Nokia’s interactive arrow billboard gets direction, shows direction

Nokia Arrow

Weathervane? More like whither-vane! (Sorry guys.) Nokia hoisted up an enormous arrow-shaped interactive digital billboard over the Tower Bridge in London to publicize their navigation services. Spectacle! What better way to tout services no one really knew they had?

The colossal signpost (as big as two double decker buses!), by Swedish agency Farfar, is controlled by the public–anyone can send in a location anywhere in the world via text or web, and the arrow will turn to point in the direction of the landmark, providing distance as well. It’s a great way to demonstrate–of course in larger than life hyperbole–the promise behind their navigation services: it’s powerful technology, and it’s at your command–quite literally, at your fingertips. (It reminds me of another excellent interactive billboard: BBC World’s provocative series that got people to engage with current events and made quite literal the notion that there are two sides to any story, reinforcing the BBC’s commitment to fair coverage and interest in all points of view. A great and thankfully not at all frustratingly irrelevant/pointless/bandwaggony use of user interaction and social advertising.)

In its aim to “make navigation into something social”  by asking people to “discover and share the good things,” the execution delivers a navigation experience beyond humdrum point A to point B–it engages people, it gets them thinking and talking and interacting–in a global community busy creating a global best-of. And in a shrewd reinforcement of these social communal it’s-a-small-world warm fuzzies, Nokia streamed it all live on video at their website, syncing all the submitted locations to a “Good Things” map for anyone to view–a global who’s who (where’s where?) of places worth knowing about.

Paste magazine asks: Is Indie Dead?

Illustration by Samuel Bosma (via Paste)

A must-read for anyone who cares about culture: Paste’s Rachael Maddux asks the question: Is Indie Dead? in the cover story for the magazine’s February issue.

In an incisive and far-ranging analysis Maddux grabs for fistfuls of smoke trying to pin a definition on the word, but nevertheless expertly and wittily charts its history, influence, rise, and fall—explaining, among other things, the advertising-music-culture cross-ramifications of a pervasive sensibility built around precisely its non-pervasiveness.

Read the essay to find out just how the democratization of technology, an Internet that eats its young, morphing music industry models, and cultural co-option (co-option?) of scene have worked together to create (and in some ways, kill) one of the most unstoppable and influential forces in pop culture today: the paradoxically elusive and ubiquitous “indie.”

How to Create Advocacy and Conversation @ Planning-ness 2009


The best brands don’t muscle their way into people’s lives; they are invited in. But how can a brand promote that sort of interest and advocacy?

Veteran planner (and my insightful mentor) Frank Striefler has some answers. His presentation, How to Create Advocacy and Conversation, showcased at the Planning-ness Conference in San Francisco this past October, lays out strategies to understand your audience, provide meaningful interactions with them, and in so doing, create authentic brand advocates.

Frank Striefler is the Head of Media Arts Planning at TBWA\Chiat\Day and the Director of Media Arts Planning at TBWA\Media Arts Lab, and has worked on powerhouse brands from Nike to Apple.

View the presentation deck here:

Dell tweets its way to $6.5 million
December 10, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,

Dell on Twitter

Dell began using Twitter as a promotions engine two years ago, with a mind to use the social networking aspects of this new channel to draw in new audiences. Now they’re reporting that their Twitter strategy has netted them more than $6.5 million in orders for PCs, accessories, and software from direct customer interactions on Twitter. While this represents a mere drop in the bucket that is Dell’s $61.1 billion annual sales, Twitter presents a key way to interact directly with audiences, and Dell is keen to leverage it.

With 1.5 million followers in 12 countries (Dell has seen a 23% increase in followers in the last three months alone), Dell’s Twitter presence behaves as a deal alert displaying promotional messaging, similar to widgets such as Southwest’s Ding! Application, but with very few costs associated, even with increases in scale and scope—just the man-hours to enter tweets. It’s worth noting that a medium like Twitter is allows brands to provide narrowly-targeted, relevant, and useful information rather than to interrupt and annoy, since it is totally opt-in from the audience side and allows the audience to self-identify the type of messaging they wish to receive from among Dell’s 35 distinct Twitter channels.