Entries in ND&P (197)


News You May Have Missed 5/31/11:Twitter Encounters Privacy Issues in UK, Starbucks Goes Gaga and More!

ND&P intern Lindsay Wade shares a few recent news items you may have missed...

Twitter Enters Privacy Conflict in UK
Earlier this week the British High Court ordered Twitter to reveal the identity of thousands of users.  The users in question tweeted about an affair between a famous soccer player and a reality TV star. The problem? The British High Court granted the soccer player a highly controversial super injunction, which prohibits the media from covering or mentioning the story. This bizarre legal measure not only denies coverage of the supposed affair, but also the court order itself. Talk about having an elephant in the room!

Starbucks Goes Gaga
Starbucks Coffee announced last week that it will be launching an online Lady Gaga-inspired scavenger hunt across sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Gaga, who has experience promoting various forms of protein (see meat dress and egg costume) should have no problem promoting other food groups. The partnership targets a shared demographic who will be eager to win both Starbucks-related prizes and the grand prize of special access during an upcoming Lady Gaga concert.

Cars Possibly the Future in Mobile Health Monitoring
More people are using mobile devices to keep tabs on day-to-day health. Ford Motors says that the next machine taking your pulse will be your car. Representatives state that with technology like Bluetooth and USB ports, drivers could sync medical devices with the car’s computer. The vehicle could then give alerts about allergies, glucose, and stress levels back to the driver.  

Talk to Your Toyota
In more car-related news, Toyota wants you to start thinking of your car as a friend. Improved technology will allow future Toyota cars to communicate directly with their drivers through social networking sites when it’s time for the car to receive routine maintenance or a battery charge. No time to schedule an appointment? No sweat. Your car will do that for you, too. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(Lindsay Wade)


A Baby Named "Like," A Flip Goodbye and More

Baby Named After a Facebook Button

News outlets are reporting today that a couple in Israel have named their daughter “Like,” supposedly inspired by the Facebook button. I have to wonder about  all the other button-named children there may be running around out there now …DELETE… SHARE… NUMLOCK… BOOKMARK… HOME… BACKSPACE… and what about poor little UNDO and CANCEL?

A Flip Goodbye

In April parent company Cisco announced an end to the Flip video camera. Diminutive in size but not necessarily in popularity, the announcement came as a surprise to many. As most digital cameras now offer the ability to capture video, and the quality of smartphone video capture has improved, some argue mini video recorders are on the road to becoming obsolete without some form of product adaptation (such as adding in wireless communication features).

Our own Flip encounters have captured everything from on-the-spot interviews and practical jokes to giant eyeballs…even feet! (here are a few of the hardworking feet at ND&P).


Airline Envy

Thanks to 15,000 readers who rated experiences on 10 airlines, Consumer Reports released a best and worst ranking for major airlines. Topping the list for BEST were Southwest and JetBlue, respectively. Flight quality factors included things like ease of check-in, seating comfort and cabin cleanliness. Read more from Consumer Reports.

YouTube Joins the Rental Circus

On Monday, May 9, 2011, Google’s YouTube added online movie rentals to its video services. The launch includes an initial library of classics and recent hot picks (ie The King’s Speech, Inception, etc.). Rentals can be watched through your YouTube account on any computer.  Will be interesting to see how this service fares when compared to well-established online rental services like Netflix.

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)


Friday the 13th: Superstitions in Marketing and Advertising

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th of May, 2011. (I am focusing on that “Friday the 13th” part, in case you missed the title of this post.) I think we’re going to celebrate the auspicious day with some sort of festivities here at the office, whether it’s putting out a few more salt shakers or handing out some mutant clovers.

But the concept of superstitions in general gave me brief pause and cause to ponder…what about superstitions in advertising?

There’s a gem of a TV spot making the rounds right now that capitalizes on the many common (and odd) good-luck rituals sports fans have – the “Superstitions” spot for Nike. I admit there are several featured in the spot (taping a baseball bat to the ceiling?) that I’m not familiar with, but I suspect you’ll find more than one that will make you smile.

That’s certainly one way to use superstitions to your advantage. And if you’d like to take that one step further, there’s the case of Stockholm’s AIK soccer club that developed an entire public campaign in late 2010 that focused on superstitions to jinx an upcoming opponent into losing the game. "Jinx Gothenburg" included a dedicated microsite and texting campaign, and culminated in a visit to Gothenburg two weeks before the big game. A team of people decorated the city with symbols of bad luck - like ladders. (Alas, it didn’t work, as AIK lost the game, but the campaign certainly garnered a lot of attention!). The video recap is a gem:

Cultural superstitions can also play a more serious role in developing marketing and advertising efforts – right down to the price your put on your product. For example, in China the number 8 is considered by many to be lucky/signify prosperity, while oft-neglected number 4 is associated with death. In 2003 The Journal of International Marketing published an abstract titled “Cultural Superstitions and the Price Endings Used in Chinese Advertising.They found a “distinct tendency to favor the digit 8 and avoid the digit 4.” Beyond the obvious pricing issue, the paper demonstrates and calls out the critical need for international companies - ANY companies - to truly understand the cultural beliefs, ideologies, and yes – superstitions, of their consumers.

So enjoy venturing out on your own Friday the 13th, whether you opt to stride purposefully under every ladder or conspicuously avoid handling any mirrors. Just step with a little care while navigating the superstitions of your audience.

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)


Easy to Read, Hard to Recall? Fonts and Message Retention

File under: Everything you know is wrong, (with a tip of the credit line to Firesign Theater).

There is a general line of thought in communications and advertising—dare I say logic?—that ad copy should be displayed using a type font and size that is “easy on the eyes.” (You're likely reading this in 12-point Verdana).

Standard Ad Think 101: Let’s use dynamic visual elements and ideas to pull them into the message, then “close the deal” with body copy that appears inviting to read, and succinctly delineates our benefits. This reasoning follows that, in general, small, sanserif fonts may often be abandoned mid-ad or ignored, and larger, cursive fonts will more frequently be read to conclusion, and a happy intersecting with the coveted CTA (call to action).

As an aside, many modern graphic designers contemplate many standard serif fonts as your average twelve year-old might consider an evening at the opera—a little on the reticent side.   

Well, then there’s this: Font size has no effect on memory, even though most people (read: copywriters, clients) might assume bigger is better. New research indicates that retention is better when the content is not just in an unfamiliar font, but actually hard to read. (The study, as referenced in The New York Times here, deals substantively with our misconceptions about learning and retention: ).

But wait, before the din of cutting-edge graphic designers and art directors standing on their Aerons® and cheering threatens to deafen us all, we should note that this study focused on academics—large quantities of unfamiliar data being studied for near-total retention and testing.

The real dilemma as it relates to advertising would seem to be how, if at all, can the basic findings be assimilated into the practice of specifying type without dramatically reducing overall, casual readership?

In other words, let’s say we want to assure that anyone who does read the ad has higher recall of the information for a very long time. That might lead to something like this:


Agreed: That’s hard to read, but I won’t soon forget it!

I would suppose the theory goes: If the mind has to work harder (focus more intently) on the information, retention will rise— if you actually complete the material—even though it could take considerably longer. And for the advertiser, therein lies the rub: How many readers would you sacrifice? Would you rather have 3 percent of those who encounter the ad read it completely and remember it forever? Or, achieve a 50 percent rate, but with recall of only a few weeks?

We would contend, of course, that any sane, and even marginally busy, consumer would look at an entire block of body copy in that “funkified” font (Bourdeaux Roman Bold LET) and immediately move on—sock drawer re-org,  Lady GaGa’s twitter feed. Overseeding the yard. Whatever.

Shall we just say the mind works in mysterious ways and leave it at that?


Sometime soon: let’s tackle more conventional wisdom:

  • Nobody reads anymore.
  • Mass communications should be written to the level of a seventh grader.
  • The postscript is the magic bullet of direct marketing.
  • Television is dead.

I know you’ll anticipate these topics just like, well, a lot.

(Doug Cook)


Mobile Tags and Codes: A Sampler

Mobile codes/tags have really jumped onto center stage within the past couple of months. Though they've been around for a few years now, they seem to be popping up in mainstream media more frequently now—from national periodicals to local news broadcasts and even late night talk shows (not to mention their use in marketing/communication materials).

Example of a Microsoft TagAs a supplement to a previous ND&P blog post on mobile tags (which you can read here), I recently wrote a comprehensive article about a few of the more (and less) common types of mobile tags. Most of you have probably run across QR Codes, for example, even if you didn’t realize that was the type of tag you spotted. Right now they are probably the most common type of tag being used in marketing pieces and campaigns. MS Tags by Microsoft™ are rapidly gaining in popularity, too. In the article, which you can read and download, I give visual examples and a few basic specifications for the following types of mobile codes:

  • QR Codes
  • JAGTAGs™
  • SnapTags™
  • MS Tags™
  • BeeTaggs™
  • EZcodes™
  • DataMatrix Codes

I encourage you to thoroughly research the choices available when planning to use a mobile code. (I spoke directly with people at a few of the companies I researched in order to answer some of my more targeted questions.) Your advertising/marketing agency should also be able to recommend the best option for your specific project.

There are many factors to consider – from whether your audience will be using a smartphone or a more standard cell phone for scanning your code (not all codes work the same way), to how large the code will be printed on the final product (some codes work better in smaller sizes). And also, whether what the code looks like matters to you (some codes allow for visual customization). Here is an abbreviated list from the full article, outlining just a few of the things you’ll want to consider when choosing a code:

Things to Consider when Choosing a Mobile Tag

Code Duplication. As QR Codes in particular continue to increase in popularity, we could start seeing some accidental duplication. There are several QR Code generators publicly available, and many generate codes independently of one another. (Granted, the risk of duplication is likely very low.) Using a QR Code that has been generated by one of the proprietary options may be one way to reduce this risk (for example, the same company that creates JAGTAGs also offers QR Codes, as does the one that creates EZcodes).

Visual Customization. Some codes allow for more customization than others (like using your logo, images, or specific colors within the code itself).

Size Matters. Some codes are better suited to run in smaller sizes – like on a business card, versus a billboard.

Audience. Is your target audience more likely to have a smartphone or a more standard cell phone? Will they need instructions on how to use the code/download a reader (if required for your code)? Is your audience even likely to use mobile tags at all?

Cost. While there are many free types of codes, you may want to explore some of the paid options depending on how you’ll use the code, what information you’d like to track about its use, and what level of visual customization you require. And when choosing a paid option you can often choose either a term subscription for services, or negotiate a rate per project.

And here’s a couple of additional factors for you:

Longevity. Many of the proprietary code options will let you REASSIGN the content for a code you create with them. This means you might be able to use your promotional pieces longer – you don’t have to reprint or recreate them to include a new code. You can keep using the existing code and simply assign new CONTENT to it.

Relevance. In addition to being able to reassign content to an existing code, many of the proprietary code options (mainly the paid options), will also let you create VARIABLE CONTENT. You can send one type of message the first time a user scans your code, then send a different message if that same user scans it a second time, and so on. You can even vary your messaging based on factors like the weather. Imagine a camping retailer being able to customize messaging so that the audience gets information about waterproof gear when it’s raining.

Purpose. It doesn't really matter how hot and trendy mobile codes are right now if they don't make sense for your promotional efforts. So make sure you thoughtfully plan how to incorporate them into your program. What content will they deliver to the user? Is it content they can't get anywhere else? Is it content that not only renders well on a user's device, but is it content that will be relevant to the user when they view it (such as while standing in front of your billboard, or sitting at home with your magazine print ad, or on the subway car after seeing your ad on the ceiling, etc.). Does the code simply take a user to the homepage of your website... or does it deliver a video with tips for using your product, or directions to the retail store closest to the user's location?

How have YOU been using mobile codes/tags in your efforts, and what factors did you consider when choosing a type?

Read the full article “Mobile Tags and Codes: A Sampler”

(Shaun Amanda Herrmann)