To: The Browser I Love to Hate

Dear Internet Explorer,

Your browser sucks.  I know you know this, but as a concerned web user, I wanted to make sure I really drove the point home. So again, let me say: your browser sucks.

I’ve heard the good news though — you’ve come out with Internet Explorer 9, a huge improvement that even the New York Times has called amazingly fast.  And I’ve seen the flashy ad.  It’s cool and all, but it won’t get me to try your new browser.

The thing is, your new commercial only makes me laugh.  Microsoft has never been known for beauty.  That’s Apple’s game.  You should stick to what you do best: promoting productivity and building efficient software.  Although Internet Explorer has often been inefficient, your new browser is supposedly much better.

I know this because of your less flashy, but quite humorous YouTube video you recently released:

You see, this ad makes me want to go out and try IE9 (and not the one I’m seeing during every single TV show I watch).  It’s more effective because it plays up the joke that Internet Explorer sucks (but is now a good browser).

I know what you are thinking: the humorous video is for the nerds and geeks who’ve always made fun of IE; the flashy video is for the normals who still consider AOL the Internet.

Here’s the thing though: even most normals hate using IE and those who do use IE will only get confused by your ad’s messaging.  The normals will think they already have the new browser — they aren’t smart enough to figure out they need to download a new version.  If they are smart enough though (which they aren’t), they won’t know how to upgrade from what ever version of Internet Explorer they’re on without the help of an IT person or their young son/daughter.

Right now you have a great Tumblr page and a really awesome video that makes fun of your old product being god awful. However, you’re still putting most of your eggs in one really flashy yet ineffective basket.

Instead of the flashy ad approach, this campaign should be extended in two other ways to really drive mass IE9 adoption:

1) Make your offline campaign the same as your online campaign. Instead of spending all your money buying media time for your More Beautiful Web spot, build your entire campaign around the idea of the Browser You Loved to Hate.

Extend the web campaign offline because it’s much more effective in brand messaging and getting the word out.  Put your Browser You Loved to Hate spot on TV.  Build your magazine and out-of-home ads around this idea as well.  Drive people to the Tumblr site.

Admitting your old product sucked is a really brave approach to take.  It would be even more brave if you proclaimed it from a higher mountain top.  It will get people talking and actually provide you with more buzz than the spot you currently hold so dearly in your heart.

2) Make the campaign more social and help me evangelize your product to those who need it.  I think some of the content you have on your Tumblr page is great, but it’s not inherently social — sure I can pin some of those funny infographics, but this campaign has such a possibility to be social in a really unique way.

You know what I’d love more than ever? The ability to send my dad an email from your website with a link to download the new IE9.

Every time I go home, I yell at my dad if I see he’s using Internet Explorer.  I’ve downloaded Chrome and Firefox on his computer, but he still uses Internet Explorer because that’s what he thinks of as the Internet.

Build out the functionality to allow me to share the new Internet Explorer with those I know suffer from your retched original product.  Let me give them the opportunity to use your new product.  It may take a while to convince me, but I’m still more than happy to evangelize your better browser to those who don’t know any better.

If you give your website the functionality to allow me to remotely install your new browser on my dad’s computer, I’d be more than happy to do it.  Give me that option and  I may even download IE9 for myself in the process.

So Internet Explorer, now that you know what needs to be done, it’s time to get to work.  I know you spent all that money on the highly produced More Beautiful Web spot, but people will not care.  Show your audience what really matters and give them more of it — I have a feeling you’ll see better campaign results because of it.

Sincerely,

Maurice Rahmey

6 Quick Takeaways from a #SXSW Rookie

It’s been one and a half days since I’ve been in Austin and I’ve been blown away/overwhelmed/underwhelmed/confused during my time at SXSW Interactive.

I wasn’t really so sure what to expect when coming here, but I think despite the rain, I’m starting to understand what SXSW is all about.

I got to the Convention Center a bit late this morning (driver got lost) so I have some downtime now to write a blog post.

Here are some of my quick takeaways from a SXSW rookie.  Hope these help for anyone who is considering coming in the future.

    1. Stay in Downtown:

I made the mistake of picking a hotel in the Northwest Arboretum.  While my hotel is on the shuttle route, I could have easily avoided 30 minute treks to the Convention Center had I realized how far I was from all of the action.  The closer you get to the Convention Center, the more expensive the hotels get.  However, you may end up paying the same price due to cab rides and the shuttle rides you’ll be taking.

  1. ABC (Always Be Charging): You will burn through your iPad, laptop, and cell phone battery at SXSW.  Whenever you see an outlet, make sure to charge up.
  2. You’ll get shut out of panels: If you really want to go to a panel, make sure to get there early.  I got shut out of a number of panels since I’ve been here.  It sucks, but I’m getting used to learning that I have to sometimes skip a previous panel to go to a better one.
  3. Research speakers before you pick their panels: There are so many panels and sessions to choose from, probability says most of them are going to suck.  To avoid these issues, make sure to research panelists to see they are credible sources and even see if you can find them speaking in videos on YouTube.
  4. Free food & free drinks everywhere: Seriously, every place you go to has an open bar or gives out free beers (it’s awesome!).  There’s also a lot of free food — mostly barbecue and Tex-Mex.  You can easily go the entire trip without paying for a single meal.
  5. Meet tons of people: If you’re a business, this is really the only benefit you’ll get from being here.  Since most people come down to SXSW, it’s really convenient to set up a number of business meetings.  This will be the biggest return on investment for your trip — having an employee speak on a panel or giving out grilled cheese will only get you so far(unless your GroupMe).  Also, don’t feel embarrassed to just randomly tweet at someone and see if they want to meet — chances are, they will!

There are more takeaways I’ve got since being here, but I’ll leave my post at 6 for now.  More to come soon!

Exploring New Ad Agency Revenue Models (courtesy of BBH)

Startup philosophy and intrepreneurship go against the very nature of what an ad agency is all about (see more).  That’s why what Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) and Chupa Chups Lollipops worked on together is all the more astounding.

Chupa Chups is not the biggest client and they certainly don’t have the biggest budget to work with, but BBH certainly found a way to game the marketing system and get the most bang for their buck.

The Chupa Chups brand, much like the lollipops themselves, is fun, irreverent and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

According to Corrado Bianchi, international marketing director of Chupa Chups’ Italian parent company, Perfetti Van Melle, ”the brand philosophy of Chupa Chups is all about giving youth a respite from the seriousness of everyday life, similar to the role gaming plays in our target audience’s life” (via AdAge).

As a result of this key insight, BBH made a Facebook game for the Chupa Chups targeted demographic to play during their down time.  More surprisingly, an ad agency actually made a good branded Facebook game.

In Chupa Chucker, a game reminiscent of the PC and mobile game Zuma, players shoot “brain spam” with lollipops, trying to get as many points as they can before time runs out.

There’s even a bit of a backstory: R4V3N, the Chupa Chucker World Champion who plays the game with his mouth (on a Chupa Chups lollipop joystick, of course), needs to be beat and you’re gonna be the one to do it.

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Can Ad Agencies Be Digital Incubators?

The digital advertising (communications) industry is the most creative, least innovative type of business currently in existence.

Digital ad agencies come up with some truly unique concepts and campaigns for clients, but they are certainly void of innovation when it comes to shaking up the way they can make money for themselves.

What do I mean exactly?

With developers, idea men (and women), designers and all of the resources needed to innovate from the ground up, ad agencies are the prime place for scalable, startup-like initiatives to happen.

However, with a few exceptions, we don’t often find an ad agency trying to incubate new ideas that can help their own company in the long run. Continue reading

Why Shazam is not the Second Screen Solution

This post was written for an advertising class. Since I’m more interested in tech and startups than creative, I decided to follow the prompt (deconstruct a creative idea), but focus it more on how digital media should be used to best engage consumers.

According to a recent Ad Week article, Shazam, the mobile app that allows you to scan audio for more content on your mobile phone, will be featured as part of the digital strategy for nearly a third of the Super Bowl ads airing this year. In 2011, zero companies attempted integrating Shazam into their advertising campaign.*

Think about that for a second – one in every three commercials during the most watched television event of the year will attempt to incorporate a new technology that will hopefully bridge the gap between what you watch on the big screen and what you consume on the small screen.

For marketers, this “second screen” solution may be a godsend in creating more value rich ad campaigns utilizing transmedia story telling (especially in an era when people spend less time on the couch and more time in front of a computer screen).  For consumers, this technology can be really freakin’ cool and engaging.

The problem is, neither of these two claims are true. Continue reading

Why There’s More to The Melt Than Grilled Cheese

the melt restaurantIn September, I started writing a post on The Melt, a new restaurant venture in San Francisco.  Then school got in the way of me finishing it – here’s the post.

There’s been a lot of hubbub in Silicon Valley about a new start-up that recently launched.  It’s not a cloud computing software or a new social network.

It’s a grilled cheese restaurant.  Yes, there have been a few venture capital firms that have actually invested in The Melt, a restaurant that specializes in the art of grilling bread and cheese sandwiches.  Even more peculiar – the guy who started The Melt has tons of experience in tech, but no experience in retail, restaurants, or (most importantly) food.

Their hook (to separate themselves from food-chain mediocrity): tech do-dad’s and thingamabobs that no restaurant in existence has really implemented before at the core of their business.

Examples of this include paying by mobile phone and geo-fencing with coupons and ordering when you are within walking distance of the store.

On the surface, this idea seems doomed for failure — you’re selling a low cost, easy to make sandwich at a high price that many people don’t usually consider gourmet enough or complicated enough to warrant ordering at a restaurant.

The truth is, The Melt will probably fail.  But what if The Melt was designed with the idea that it may fail? What if this is all some big elaborate testing playground that has nothing to do with churning out some hot new chain restaurant that wants to go mano-y-mano with the Chipotles and Five Guys of the country?

The evidence proving this theory may just be there if you read between the lines:

1) This isn’t about grilled cheese, it’s about retail.  If you look at the history of the investors and the board of directors to The Melt, it certainly doesn’t scream RESTAURANT.  However, there are some members who certainly invoke awesome retail experience, most notably Ron Johnson.  As the head of retail at Apple, Ron made visiting their stores an experience, not a chore.  He redefined what shopping for a computer should be.

The restaurant industry is ripe for innovation in dining experience, especially when it comes to technological advancements.  Why not create your own store as the model for what the new American dining experience should be and then license out your technologies to McDonald’s and Subway’s across America?

2) Low cost, high margin product + easy to make + quick entry into market = less risk.  If the core product at The Melt, isn’t the product but the experience, why grilled cheese?  It’s simple. The Melt’s variable costs are extremely low and more importantly, a grilled cheese at $6 a pop has an extremely high margin.  In addition, making a product that’s easy to make means it’s easy to train staff and have a pretty low overhead (for a restaurant). Continue reading

Marketing and the Facebook Wall Sneak

Somewhere in the past couple of months, Facebook changed the default settings on wall posts so users can only see content from the friends and fan pages they interact the most with.  This weekend, I changed the settings back to the original Facebook content filter – “All of your friends and pages.”  Like magic, my wall became inundated with “friends” I forget about and pages I forgot I liked.  Like any person with a marketing mind set, I was thinking about the effect of companies losing many of their fan page views.

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IBM: Watson and a Smarter Planet

Last week, IBM pitted a super computer against Jeopardy’s two best players in a 3 episode arc to see if machine could out perform man.  Much to the excitement of IBM, the super computer, also called Watson, obliterated his competition and created a whole lot of press for the technology company headquartered in Armonk, NY.

On Saturday February 26th 2011, BU’s Public Relations Student Society of America is hosting PR Advanced: Be the Change with keynote speaker Jon Iwata (SVP of Marketing and Communications at IBM). As a last minute promotional tool to get attendees excited for the conference, I (along with the Ginny Soskey, the conference’s coordinator) had the opportunity to interview IBM’s Brandi Boatner (external relations) about Watson and the company’s “Smarter Planet” Campaign.  The video above is just a snippet of our 30 minute interview with Brandi.

 

The Five F’s of Checking-In

I recently read a blog post that I thought was really interesting regarding Location Based Services (Check-ins, Location Based Marketing and the F’ Word by Claudio Schapsis).  According to the writer, there are five reasons people use location based services: Fun, Friends, Fancying, Freebies and Following.  All five F’s were framed underneath a larger, more vague ‘F:’ Find.

I actually contributed three of them when Claudio posted the question to Quora as a way to come up with the motivations for checking-in (Friends, Fancying, and Freebies).  The other two hadn’t been on my mind, but I’d like to elaborate on all of them now.

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#TVNext and 2 Solutions to Enhance Current Online TV Ads

This past Friday, advertising agency Hill Holliday held an event called #TVNext for their clients as well as the press on emerging trends in television consumption (how I fit into either of those groups is a mystery to me too).

The event featured panels called TV Gets Social, TV Gets Connected, and TV Gets Portable. Representatives from companies like CNN, GoogleTV, XBox, and Hulu were on hand to discuss the future of television and television programming (a more comprehensive list of speakers and the event schedule can be found here).

As exciting as the event was, I wish there was more talk about advertisements for online programming.  Advertising on sites like Hulu is boring right now.

The main problem is that these advertisements don’t take advantage of the medium they’re on.  Online video ads are treated like television video ads and don’t embrace the single greatest benefit of the Internet: interactivity.  I don’t know if the problem with these ads basically being ported from their television counterparts is the fault of the agencies producing them or the Hulu website not allowing a new style of advertising.  Regardless, advertising for online video is still ripe for a revolution. Continue reading