Real Time: Piano Humor

By now most folks have heard about Chatroulette, a site that allows you to randomly connect via webcam.  This video at posting time had 3.7 million views in less than two weeks.  A musician named Merton, in a nod to Ben Folds, does some great improv.

Saturday night in Charlotte, NC, Ben Folds set up a computer on stage and did an Ode to Merton in response.  Brilliant way to take advantage of a hot topic and viral hit.  Spotted via @BenFolds on Twitter, for that matter.  As of posting this video only had about 4200 views.

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Return on Serendipity

According to Wikipedia, Serendipity “is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated.”  I’ve found that since engaging on several different social media tools like Twitter, that has happened a lot more often.  How about you?  “Return on serendipity” really makes no sense – how can you plan to get a return on something that happens by accident?

Last week I attended the Social Business Summit, hosted by the Dachis Group in Austin, TX just before the SXSW Interactive conference.  One of the speakers was John Hagel. John is the co-chair of a Silicon Valley research center for Deloitte.  One quote stood out for me, and it applies to both individuals and businesses:

You can increase the opportunity to achieve serendipity.  What’s your serendipity strategy?

You can put yourself out there.  Businesses can establish outposts in social channels, build and foster relationships, and have a presence where customers expect them to be.  With the growth of social media tools, and their resulting impact on other digital channels, this will give you more opportunities for people to find you.

Last fall, GroupM and Comscore announced the results of a compelling study on the correlation between social media and paid search.  One highlight for me hits home for the digital marketer:

The study…showed a 50 percent click-through-rate (CTR) increase in paid search when sonsumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search.  This revealed consumers exposed to social media are more likely to click on a brand’s paid search ad as compared to those exposed to the brand’s paid search alone.

To me, that’s hard evidence that building a footprint increases the likelihood of serendipity – consumers will find you, perhaps when they were not expecting to.  The term “return on serendipity” may be a non sequitor, but there are signs of real, tangible return on making opportunities more likely to happen.   Have other examples?  I’d love to hear them.

Update: After a little discussion on Twitter I was alerted to this great post by Rachel Happe: 5 Ways to Orchestrate Serendipity.  Worth the read.

Photo credit: shashachu via flickr

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Spread the Joy: A Little Augmented Reality and a Rosetta Snow Day

snowdayWhat do augmented reality, snowdays and New Orleans have in common?  A Happy Holidays card and helping to spread some joy from Rosetta.

Every year agencies of all types like to show their stuff with digital holiday cards.  Looking to raise the bar from last year, the Rosetta team is trying something new.  Our team took their passion for technology, social media and working for a good cause to dream up something fun – and we hope people find it to be a “different taste” from the usual agency card.  Grab your webcam and see what I mean.

Happy Holidays from Rosetta

What’s more joyful than catching snowflakes on your tongue?  If we catch a million snowflakes, on February 20, 2010, we’ll be in New Orleans providing some joy to local children at City Park: a snow day.  Read more at the card site, and I look forward to sharing stories of the joy from that event in a couple months.  Have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Note: We’ll be watching usage and looking to fix or upgrade features – would love your input on what we could improve.

UPDATE: The WSJ covered our holiday card today (“Stop Licking Your Monitor,” 12/15/2009).  My favorite quote is about “on-tongue recognition technology” from Rosetta partner Toni Hess.

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How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

smokefreeTwo campaigns caught my eye today that I wanted to capture and share as examples of the sheer brilliance of interactive marketing.  The first is a campaign in display advertising from Agency Republic.  The technique is to target “parents in routine and manual occupations” to reduce smoking in that audience.  Click through the image of the child to see the brief and walkthrough of how it worked, following a parent’s web use if the initial messages were ignored.  The campaign was runner up in September’s creative showcase awards.

The second campaign is an interactive billboard – I’ve mentioned before how display advertising is showing signs of life, but this takes it to whole new level.  A digital dog interacts with people that merely walk by the window.  Here is how it works:

People on the sidewalk are monitored by an IR camera in openFrameworks. In oF each individual person is isolated and assigned a unique id for the duration of their interaction. Each persons’ position and gesture information is continually sent to Unity3d via OSC networking protocol. In Unity, an artificial intelligence system representing the dog forms relationships with the individuals. He chooses which person to pay attention to, is able to move towards them or back away, responds to their gestures and initiates gestures of his own. Based on the interaction he gets excited or bored, friendly or aggressive, which is reflected in his behavior.

Just trust me, the video says it much better. Spotted via neatorama.

Sniff from karolina sobecka on Vimeo.

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Can Social Media be Taught?


I imagine there are two camps: those who believe you can teach someone how to use social media and those who think it’s absurd to teach people to do what they can learn on their own.  The term “Social Media” covers such a gamut of technologies, approaches, tools and lessons learned that it’s challenging to think about how a training course could be packaged and would stay current, but I’d like to explore what a course could achieve.

There Is No Set Formula

When it comes to leveraging social media for marketing, there is no set formula.  In other areas of online marketing, there is a formula, skill sets and disciplines.  For example, pay-per-click and online display advertising can be measured in terms of return on investment to several decimal points, and there are proven methods that work in each discipline.  The social media space is constantly changing – there is no set formula for success and whether or not you believe the ROI can be measured, every tool/community/approach is different.  If someone tries to sell you a discrete formula for success, chances are they are trying to get rich quick over the hype.  And if you buy their formula, please contact me, I’ve got some contacts via email who are looking to connect folks like you to a late Russian tycoon’s inheritance.

Others may suggest that (aside from spam) there is no wrong way to use social media really.  I see arguments on this front all the time, especially when it comes to using specific tools.  People use Twitter in all sorts of ways – as a broadcast channel, as a conversation channel, for work, for play, for distractions and for adding value.  If what is right for you works, how could there be another right way that works for someone else?

Resources Galore

There are a lot of great books, blogs, conferences and people to learn from.  I’ve attended many local and industry events and have had the pleasure of meeting several folks who are influential in the social media industry.   A key part of learning about social media is to immerse yourself in it – subscribe to blogs, connect with people on social networks and really use it.  If you can commit to do a little each day, it can start to pay dividends over time through the relationships you build – whether its for your own personal use of for your business.  If you are looking for recommendations on people to connect to that you can learn from (and who show an interest in sharing that knowledge), some of the best include Amber Naslund, Chris Brogan, Beth Harte and Jay Baer.

What a Course Could Provide

A training course in social media could consolidate a lot of the disparate sources of information out there.  A part of the training could capture how tools work, define terminology and give examples of successes or failures.  The course could showcase case studies where companies or individuals took risks in specific industries.  There are lots of approaches and strategies that can be covered – often the advice is to “start with listening,” but a course could provide details on how to set up monitoring stations, the differences between free tools like Google Blog Search and enterprise tools like Radian6 or SM2.  The course would need a dynamic element to it – I could easily see the case studies become dated and the technology changes and new tools making it difficult to keep up.

Can you package up enough in one course to make it worthwhile? The folks at SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association, are trying.  I was honored to be asked by the SEMPO team to review the course outline for one of two new summer sessions available, covering Social Media.  (My agency, Rosetta, is a SEMPO member.)  I’m curious to see how the course will fair and what the participants think of the content.

Which Camp Are You In?

Would a training course in social media appeal to you?  What do you think a training course could achieve?  If the course is focused on how the tools work, the implications and risks, case studies, etc then I don’t have a problem with it.  But if the course is going to claim that it can guarantee success by building followers and following someone’s specific formula, avoid it like the plague.  Thoughts?

Photo credit: foreversouls via flickr

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Display Advertising Shows Signs of Life

I always like to capture ideas and campaigns here that really catch my eye and provide inspiration.  Here are two banner ads that challenge the notion that this industry has nothing left in it.  They show that the right mix of creativity, humor and humility for the knowledge an end-user has about the space can create a vibrant ad.  Most importantly: they engage better than, well any other banner ad I’ve seen.  I’d imagine, like me, anyone in the interactive marketing industry would look at both these and say, “I wish I’d thought of that.”


First up is an ad from Pringles. I couldn’t click just once. (OK, I know that’s a headnod to the Lay’s campaign, but it’s for potato chips too).  I heard about it via AdFreak – key quote:

I appreciate that it isn’t flashing horrible circus colors and promising me a free Xbox or a spyware-laden “virus scan.”

It’s actually quite funny, and no surprise it recently won awards.  The one here is embedded – you can click right here and no I don’t get any referrals for your clicks.


The second ad was covered in Adweek’s TweetFreak a couple weeks ago.  This ad for Volkswagen integrates Twitter directly in the ad, scanning recent tweets for terms used and then recommending a car that is right for you.  This one is not embedded – click through to a page where you can put in a Twitter ID to see the results.

Volkwagen Twitter Ad

Of course I like the idea of integrating Twitter in a creative way – it’s trailblazing with new platforms and technologies – but I would be curious to see some of the metrics around both of these campaigns.  Any others that strike you as compelling or inspirational?

Bonus: An Offline Ad Can Inspire Too

Proving that technology, location and creativity can create a compelling mix, here’s another Cannes Lion award winner that could inspire loads of guerilla marketing ideas – imagine what Times Square could be like in New York City if all of the ads responded to what happened in front of them.  Hat tip to copyranter and @dschutzsmith for sharing.


UPDATE: For a lot more insight on the Pringles ad (not to mention some very useful resources on Pharma and social media) directly from the source agency that created the ad, see the post “What Pharma Can Learn from Pringles” from Jonathan Richman.

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Is User Generated Content the New Campaign Standard?

terminateyourselfTwo recent movie promotional campaigns do a great job combining the storyline, user photos and content (not to mention the ability to share that content easily on networks like Facebook).  They’re fun, easy to use and engage the user in more than just an online impression.  Has this become the new standard for interactive marketing?

First, the site Terminate Yourself ( promotes the new Terminator Salvation coming out on May 21.  The site allows you to upload a picture (or take one via webcam on the spot, which I think is the best part) and then customize the “damage” to yield a photo.  Simple, effective, and potentially viral.  What is intriguing is a lack of big corporate sponsorship, unlike the Star Trek Counterpart.

Star Trek’s marketing team partners with Cheez-It to deliver Trek Yourself (  While more feature rich, it can take time to load and process making it slightly more cumbersome.  After uploading a picture, you select a character, a soundbite (custom text allowed, which is pretty slick), and a background, and you’ve got a moving, living image you can embed anywhere.  I’d say this site is much more robust than the first example, but both are good at accomplishing promotional goals and leveraging user generated content to drive results.

As an agency, we’ve done work on these campaigns in the past (most recently for client Nationwide on the Sanjaya-ize Me site).  They can be fun, effective ways of engaging people online and can have at least a good shot of creating viral success.  I think the Simpsons site is still the best example out there though.  What do you think?  Have any other good examples that get the concept right? (For those reading via feed, please click through to see the example).

Create Your Own