Monday, March 12, 2007

Impossible is Nothing 2007

Interesting to see Adidas focusing on premium, athlete-generated content - as opposed to rough 'n' ready, consumer-generated content - with a new microsite supported by video teasers on YouTube. This gives the campaign a human feel without the tackiness that CGC so often imbues. (The bog-standard CGC venture is starting to look more than a little tired, even from the creatively-empowered Diginative consumer perspective).

The fact that the athletes featured in the 2007 Impossible is Nothing campaign are taking a step back from their sports to do something thoughtful and arty (but not overly pretentious) helps to keep the campaign on-brand without resorting to product-centric mundanity. Of the individual performances, David Beckham impresses with emo-like candour and sincerity, whilst Lionel Messi's revelation of childhood growth hormone issues is genuinely touching.

From a design perspective, I like the use of an urban studio scene as background: it's a nice brand fit, and makes sense as a holding device for the athletes and their artwork. I also like the video player interface - simple but stylised. I'm not so keen on the pop-up landing page - it's far from simple to bookmark and I REALLY don't like advertisers - or anyone else, for that matter - messing with my browser toolbar.

More on data and the semantic web

On Saturday, The Guardian kindly updated us on the progress of Google's mission to digitise the world's books. Meanwhile, in The Economist's Technology Quarterly, there's an interview with Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the web (nice claim to fame), which discusses his lack of excitement about Web 2.0 - the web was designed for user participation from day one - and his vision for the Semantic Web.

I imagine the Google Books project will go hand in hand with the development of semantic search functionality. With the world's books at my fingertips, it would certainly be nice to run searches like "memorable quotes by male protagonists in 19th century gothic novels set in london". To successfully deal with such a search would undoubtedly require a layer of computer-readable meta-data (the so-called 'semantics' of the Semantic Web).

Jeep swaps car-wash for brand-wash

Is nothing sacred? Seemingly not. Every Diginative's favourite childhood movie, The Goonies, has been brand-washed by Jeep.

The Jeep/Goonies advergame takes pride of place on a fancy-looking microsite. But as the old saying goes, looks ain't everything. The first level of the game requires the player to drive round (and round, and round) in a jeep doing not very much. I ran out of time and - shock horror - opted not to 'play again'.

There's also a cringe-worthy trailor for the game featuring... well, Jeep, for the most part. Good job I didn't watch it until after I played the game. Or maybe bad job - that trailor could have saved me the 5 minutes I spent 'engaging' with the Jeep brand (for 'engaging', read 'learning to hate').

A couple of basic-but-golden rules for branded content: (1) make sure the content doesn't disappoint, i.e. make it funny/sexy/challenging/useful/something other than dull (2) take a brands-off approach, plumping for relevence and depth of engagement over explicit branding.

Jeep scores 0 out of 2 in my books.

No doubt Jeep's agency thought reaching Diginatives by combining their favourite film property (The Goonies) and their favourite media platform (online) was an easy win. But playing around with people's favourite things is a dangerous game. The result of that game may well be a shock defeat, unless your average Goonies fan has superior advergame skillz to yours truly (quite likely) and a penchant for heavy branding (less likely).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Too much data?

This week, Emarketer and Techonology Guardian, amongst others, have been getting rather excited about an IDC report which analyses and forecasts the world's digital data output.

The findings are impressive and scary in equal measures. Emarketer notes that 'the amount of information created and replicated in 2007 (255 exabytes) will be greater, for the first time, than available storage capacity (246 exabytes)'. So the economics of data storage (scarce supply, insatiable demand) are about to get interesting. Well, maybe not quite yet: lots of that data will get deleted, and hard drives will get more efficient, apparently. But how long before the rate of production (minus deletion) outstrips the rate of efficient storage creation? Now that HD and Blueray DVD protection has been cracked, it won't be long before bloated BitTorrents flood the net. And then there's Joost. Uh oh.

Technology Guardian is more interested in looking backwards, and finds a great shock-stat of its own buried deep in the report (i.e. beyond the executive summary):

'The sheer amount of data that has been created by the digital age becomes clear when comparing it with the spoken word. Experts estimate that all human language since the dawn of time would take up about 5 exabytes if stored in digital form. In comparison, last year's email traffic accounted for 6 exabytes.'

As anyone with a passing interest in digital media will confirm, the data burden is becoming ever more unmanageable. Despite the best efforts of Google, Technorati, Digg and their legions of paid and unpaid contributors, the data mountain is growing too fast and too vast for humans to sort through. Step forward the Semantic Web: a brave new world wide web where computers get on with it and we get exactly what we want. What started out as a quixotic vision is now one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to pioneering projects like Freebase, which - with a little bit of help from the online community - hopes to map the inter-relationships between all online data in a language that computers can 'understand'. (Think of it as a structured, supersized wikipedia that fills in the gaps for you).

The Semantic Web is kind of like artificial intelligence lite, which has got the uber-nerds excited. But, as O'Reilly comments, projects like Freebase are still 'very much in Alpha'. Whether the Semantic Web will save Diginatives from a life of digislavery has yet to be seen.