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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today’s cultural (and musical) landscape, and is merely one in a long string of embarrassing failures by a hopelessly outdated and pig-headed recording industry blundering indignantly and ever-insistently towards obsolescence.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:


Best Buy repurposes discarded electronics for 3D e-cycling billboard

Best Buy Billboard

I love a good 3D billboard, and this one’s pretty good. In a new billboard in Times Square, Best Buy demonstrates recycling as it promotes its free electronics recycling program. With a message composed of woebegone electronic castoffs, it cleverly draws attention and communicates its message instantly, both visually and verbally. See a closeup below, along with a couple of my other favorite 3D billboards (and one interactive!):

Billboard Closeup

Absolut Ikea

Absolut teamed up with IKEA to furnish an NYC studio, showcasing both the iconic Absolut bottle and affordable IKEA style in even the tightest of spaces


Before pedestrian complaints got it replaced by a less invasive one (proves the billboard's point!), Cingular made dropped calls literal and showed just what a nuisance they can be


In this eye-catching interactive billboard, The Economist demonstrated what a bright idea it is to read their publication--and how bright you'll be when you're well-informed--by placing a motion sensor under the bulb on their billboard so it would light up whenever someone walked under it

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.”

I totally had this idea: Grasshopper DVR-proof commercial
January 26, 2010, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,

Grasshopper Still

OK, seriously. I totally had the idea of a DVR-thwarting (nay, DVR-leveraging) commercial that would be created specifically to be played sans-sound and at warp-speed. (As in, when fast forwarded it would actually play at normal speed.) This isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s pretty close, and I’m actually really excited that it exists.

Virtual phone company Grasshopper created a TV spot that fights ad-skipping by capitalizing on the way audiences behave in the medium. Noting that 70% of viewers fast-forward through ads using their DVR, that those who do ad-skip tend to watch the center of the screen, and that the human brain can process ad images up to 20 times faster than normal, Grasshopper created a spot in which its mascot never moves and stays center-screen, and which uses simple block-printed product highlights so that even fast-forwarders will see a constant visual and get the key points.

As far as ads go, it’s not the most clever, but it’s innovative in its understanding of (and to some degree, subversion of) the medium and audiences’ behavior within it. I’m looking forward to seeing more inventive, artful, and boundary-pushing iterations of the DVR-proof TV spot as real creative visionaries sink their teeth into the concept.

View the commercial here:

Text to donate: Red Cross offers quick, easy means to help Haiti
January 13, 2010, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: , ,

Red Cross in Haiti

Make a difference in less time than it takes to get out your checkbook. Simply text the word HAITI to 90999 to have $10 automatically donated to Red Cross earthquake relief efforts in the disaster-struck nation. (The donation is added to your phone bill, easy as that.)

Donation by text is not new—for example, UNICEF’s TAP Project for clean drinking water used it to great results—but it’s effective, and an ingenious way to mobilize people in support of a cause. It’s smart, it’s easy, and it’s immediate—for us as donors and for the recipients and organizations in need of aid. It removes a lot of the obstacles that keep people from donating, making the act of giving almost as convenient as doing nothing at all.

The donation-by-text method capitalizes on the ubiquity of mobile phones (maybe the only thing we really take everywhere with us—even more so than money, as this campaign shrewdly observes) and allows us to seize the generous impulse before it has a chance to fade, or before we just forget.

Beyond just the ease and speed with which the text donation delivery method works is the “price point” of the donation—a mere $10. It’s meaningful and it adds up, but it’s small enough for most of us to donate without much thought. The token default amount of $10 can probably quickly generate—just through ease of donation and sheer grassroots volume of donations—a great deal more money and awareness than a smaller number of larger donations, as with a traditional crisis-response drive. (Of course, those who want to donate more always can—this text feature is not really for them, but for the “casual” donor, the everyman.)