Getting Ready for the first ever Internet Week in NYC

The first-ever Internet Week New York it taking place next week (from June 3 - June 10, 2008) and the anticipation is growing in the NY Tech Community. The festival includes a variety of events around NYC, including the Webby Awards, the IMC and Advertising 2.0 conferences, an event organized by the leading Angel groups and VC's in NY (how to finance your startup), as well as a number of parties and various cultural events.

The festival is produced by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in cooperation with the City of New York and the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

I am planning to attend various events and I will be reporting back to you on the fly. Stay tuned.


Once a year, the Manhattan grid comes into astronomical alignment with the sun. In practical terms, this means that if you are sitting on the East Side looking west you can see the Sun shining down a canyon-like street. According to wikipedia, the term is derived from Stonehenge, at which the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices.

Tomorrow is that day and all of us living in Manhattan will be treated to a trully amazing sunset. One more reason to love this city.

Business Challenges: Mogulus adds ads

Mogulus is one of the coolest websites in the area of live broadcasting. It allows you to create your own channel, customize to the smallest detail and start broadcasting live from your computer in minutes. More importantly, the look and feel of the channel is really professional, setting it apart from other similar websites.

It's been almost a year since I saw their demo at the NY Tech Meetup and I still remember the enthusiastic response from the (usually tough) audience. Fast forward one year and hitwise now reports that the website has reached a plateau. Moreover, starting tomorrow, Mogulus will begin inserting overlay adverts in all their channels. So lots of change and interesting times for this startup.

In the midst of all this, here is the email that they sent out to their users:

We have big news: starting Thursday 29th May 2008 at 3pm EST, we will begin inserting overlay adverts in all Mogulus Free channels.

I am not sure how I felt reading this email. Usually, when you hear someone announcing Big News, you expect to see a benefit or a service upgrade, i.e. Big News = Good News, not the case here.

To their credit, they also announced that they will release a Revenue Sharing program later this year, after they launch their "Pro" (ad free) version, later in the Summer. Also, for the time being users can choose to turn off the ads if they wish.

So altogether, exciting times for the Mogulus team. I am still very curious to see how much they will charge for the Pro version...

3G and Long Tail

The first thing that you learn when you decide to open a retail store is that location is the single most important factor of success. I learned that lesson the hard way, when I bought a franchise business many years ago. It took me months until I found a store that was in a good location and didn't cost a fortune to rent. (yes, there are dream properties like this, but you really need to be lucky and well-connected) That was back in the early '00s and I was living in Greece at the time.
Fast forward to the year 2010 or so. 3G phones have reached mainstream status and location based services like socialight are widespread. You walk down a busy street looking for a quick snack. You check your mobile phone and you see that there is a bakery just around the corner, in a small street . You take a right and walk there. You look for it and you realize that you can barely see it as it's partly hidden behind a tree. You enter the store and you get a muffin and a cup of coffee. Delicious. You have just discovered a hidden gem.

Hidden? Well maybe with today's standards. In fact you would never have found it today, unless you had been there before and you knew about it. Because chances are that you would never have left the busy street in the first place. Even if you had accidentally made the turn to the little street, the big tree would have hidden the little bakery.

Not anymore. In the near future people will not be prisoners of the main street anymore. It's the story of the long tail again, only this time it's happening in the "real world". Instead of having the top locations getting 90% of the traffic, people will now discover new content (in this case restaurants, bars, shops etc) that is "off the beaten track". And small shop owners who can not afford to pay rents in the main street, will stand a better chance to win customers and compete with the big, established retailers. I like this idea. Maybe then I can open the chocolate-wine -coffee-books shop that I have always dreamed about and retire.

Decoding Apple Design: 6 Rules

Working in marketing I have watched hundreds of presentations about branding, innovation and design. Although it's usually a repackaging of existing learnings and information, presentations of this type do serve a purpose as they allow you to focus and think about the mystery of innovation.
It goes without saying that people routinely mention Apple in presentations like this. And it always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It is as if they had something to do with the development of one of these iconic products, when all they are doing is trying to take part of the credit and the cool factor, just for being able to put an iphone photo on a PowerPoint slide.

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with Apple: I love the design, but I guess I had more than my fair share of defective products from Apple. Either way, I recognize and admire the magic of their design and although I have mixed feelings about their corporate culture, I would like to be a fly on the wall for one day and observe Mr Jonathan Ive and Co in action. For those not familiar with Mr Ive, he is the SVP of design for Apple, or the Man Behind Steve Jobs.

A couple of days ago, I read that he won a few more awards from D&AD. To quote Claire Beale "there are few creative awards more jealously coveted than a D&AD pencil. Yellow pencils can be career makers. But the elusive Black Pencil is a marker of creative genius". Now, Jonathan Ive has won 6 Black Pencils over the last 10 years. This is more than anyone else in the world. But of course, this shouldn't be a surprise, it's like saying that Apple makes great products.

So how do they do it? Even if Steve Jobs wanted to share this information with the rest of the world, it wouldn't make much difference. To quote Seth Godin, Bullet points are not the point. It's more about how determined you are to do something with them. Here is a list of my thoughts. Read it. Then add your thoughts. Then act as you see fit:
1) Having a dream team helps, getting the dream team is the challenge. You need to understand and define design (and great design) first. In a world of design mediocrity, you may not even know that you have a problem.

2) "Having a very clear focus that all the development teams share; a focus around trying to make really great products". This one came from one of Jonathan's interviews and even he, admitted that "it sounds ridiculously simplistic, almost naive, but it's very unique for the product to be what consumes you completely." It helps, perhaps, that he's designing products that he and his team love to use, in their jobs, in their lives. "We don't have to take this great intuitive leap to understand the mythical concerns of our users, because we are the users."

3) A fanatical care beyond the obvious stuff. As Jonathan Ive said in another interview after he won the Design Museum Award "the obsessive attention to details that are often overlooked, like cables and power adaptors. Take the iMac, our attempts to make it less exclusive and more accessible occurred at a number of different levels. A detail example is the handle. Seeing an object with a handle, you instantly understand aspects of its physical nature - I can touch it, move it, it’s not too precious."

4) Structure and creativity: On the one hand an open space environment and a massive sound system that pumps up music and boosts creativity. On the other hand, an investment on state-of-the-art prototyping equipment and a design process revolving around intense iteration -- making and remaking models to visualize new concepts.

5) Cross functional Innovation: Despite the secrecy, according to Business Week, the Apple design team "works closely and intensely with engineers, marketers, and even outside manufacturing contractors in Asia who actually build the products. Rather than being simple stylists, they're leading innovators in the use of new materials and production processes."

6) Go Big or go home: There was a great article on Business Week about Jonathan Ive and Apple. It summarizes this point brilliantly: "Most big corporations have neither the focus, the skills, nor the appetite for risk to build mass-produced products that feel as if they were made by high-priced boutiques in New York or London. While computer companies have focused on pinching pennies these past few decades, Apple has been perfecting its design game. The fact that rivals are now talking about design is not proof they're catching up -- but of how far they have to go."

So this is the list of 6 things you need to do to innovate like Apple. Maybe it's just a list of bullet points. Acting on this points is the challenge:
Most companies are preoccupied with differentiation, yet without genuinely taking the time, investing the resources and caring enough to try and make something better. How can these companies compete with somone who has razor sharp focus, unique skills and great appettite to take risks? It is not an easy thing.

Facebook: Bad news again

I don't like to be repetitive, so I will make this short: there is now more evidence that Facebook is struggling, confirming earlier posts from this blog. The latest stats from Nielsen Online show a significant decline in month-over-month unique visitors to Facebook in the US. According to mashable, "Facebook will unveil their re-designed user profiles shortly, which aim in part to get rid of the clutter that has loaded up Facebook since they launched their application platform."
Is this going to make a difference? Personally, I don't really think so. You can only get as far with functional improvements. If the magic is gone, then there is not much you can do.

As Powerful as a Video Game.

The New York Photo Festival tool place last week in DUMBO, a neighborhood on the Brooklyn waterfront between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

For four days, the festival offered visitors an extensive range of activities including seminars, slide shows, book signings, photographic workshops, live performances and events, and a gallery row.
Once again, there was a lot of buzz around Phillip Toledano's work, particularly the Video Gamers collection.

The artist has caught his subjects revealing “a hidden part of their character” through having them play video games. Spooky. Witty. Dazzling.

Or how about these two. Excitement. Surprise. Illumination. Everything for this one moment. And yes, a video game can offer you all this and more. Isn't that amazing?

Single Era Conjecture?

There was an interesting article on the Sunday times about the Single Era Conjecture, which is how they call the invisible law that makes it impossible for a technology company to maintain its leadership through a major paradigm shift. The article gives examples of companies that have tried and failed (i.e. IBM) and focuses on how Microsoft struggles to "sustain in the Internet era what they attained in the personal computing era". There were some interesting facts there that I wasn't aware of. Like the 1995 internal memo "the Internet wave" where Bill Gates alerted company employees that Internet was meant to be a disruptive force. It's fascinating to see how the company has failed to address this major trend, although they have been aware of its importance for over a decade.

Is it a matter of poor management and lack of leadership? Or is it just the fact that as NY Times suggests, this is an invisible law and Mother Nature simply won't permit it? If this is the case, Google will fail too, soon and actually there is a lot of evidence suggesting that this is probably going to be the case (key employees leaving the company, changing culture etc)

Either way, I find it very difficult to believe in invisible laws of Mother Nature. Human beings have managed to change and overcome so many of them in areas that I find much more challenging. So check the video below:

What do you think? I personally find this parody video extremely accurate of Microsoft's reality. So I am asking you: Is this Mather Nature or just a huge company shooting itself on the foot? I mean there are things that are hard to change and maybe re-writing Windows is one of them. (I wouldn't know since I am not a hacker, but its a very controversial subject anyway after Vista failed). And then, there are things that can be easily changed, like design. I am not suggesting cutting edge here. Just avoid ridiculous for now. But then this suggests that Leadership gets it. Do they?

In the video above Steve Ballmer (current CEO and the 15th employee who joined the company) concludes breathless: "I have four words for you: I love this company". Of course he does. But then again, everybody else doesn't love Microsoft anymore and I don't think it's because of Mother Nature. I think this is a challenge of culture and leadership. Microsoft has done such a lousy job adjusting, so even when they do innovate, people won't take them seriously anymore.

The Art of Goose Bumps

Goose bumps:
Pimples on the skin brought on by cold or fear or by sudden excitement

Ask yourself: Are you in the goose bump business? Do you offer people the promise of sudden and unexpected excitement? Do you create special moments that really transcend people?

Maybe not. Maybe your product is very functional and people use it in very logical and predefined ways. Or maybe the whole category is stagnant and commoditized and people don't expect anything more than the functional benefit. Something like paper napkins, batteries, tooth paste or chewing gum. Or how about a search engine, or an online store. There is not much room for emotions and surprises here. Right? hmmm...maybe not.

Studies in neuroscience reveal that emotions guide decision making. As we've all learned by reading blink and other books on this topic, people can not make decisions without emotions, period. It's about how the human brain works: you touch fire when you are 3 years old and guess what happens:
So your brain attaches a "marker" there that says "danger". This marker creates a shortcut in your brain that helps you envision the outcome of an action, in this case, "don't touch the fire again because it won't be nice". Little by little, our brain creates markers for everything that surrounds us. So each time we make a decision we envision the outcome: if it feels good we do it. If not, we skip.
Hold on you say, how what can I create memorable experiences, when all I have is a functional, low involvement product? Think airlines for a minute: highly commoditized category, most people choose the lowest fare and the experience sucks. Watch this ad from Virgin:

The ad builds on the concept of memorable experiences. Even better, without creating any of those, it attempts to take credit for all of them, past and future, challenging you to live your life so you "got plenty to watch". Now watch this ad from "5" chewing gum (pump up the volume, you'll see what I mean)

Did you get goose bumps? I did. Yes, it's just a chewing gum, but the promise of the experience can knock your shocks off.

So what is the morale of the story? Dare to be different. Think in terms of goose bumps. Try to create unique promises even if you are a chewing gum. But then make sure that you deliver on them somehow. As they say, nothing can kill a product faster than great advertising (if the product sucks).

ITP- A breath of fresh air.

ITP is a course from NYU that stands for Interactive Tellecomunications Program. The program is a combination of art/design/technology/media, or in their own words:

"ITP is a two-year graduate program located in the Tisch School of the Arts whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people’s lives. Perhaps the best way to describe us is as a Center for the Recently Possible. "

Every spring ITP organanizes a "spring show" that gives each student the opportunity to present their work to the public. It is really an amazing experience, for some it is one of the things that defines the NY Tech scene, and shapes its future.

I was there last night for their 2008 Spring Show and although I felt that the '07 show was a bit better, once again it was a breath of fresh air to see all these young (ok some of them not so young), creative people sharing their best stuff with the rest of the world.

There were some very interesting concept this year and it was also interesting to see some major trends reflected in the creative work of the students (for example some of the new concepts were addressing energy preservation issues)

Once again there were a lot of crazy visualizations, a lot of storytelling, some new mobile concepts and other interesting ideas cutting between art, science and business.

As I was heading home last night I was thinking if ITP creates the future of the New York Tech Scene as some people tend to think, or if it just interacts with its present. Then, I realized that maybe there is no difference between the two, after all the future is fueled by the present.
Eitherway, ITP adds to the culture and the creativity of NY, by educating and leveraging some of the city's most creative minds.

Prediction markets and corporations: benefits and barriers

There is growing discussion about prediction markets, particularly when it comes to their uses within corporations. As some of us know, the idea of prediction markets "recently" became more popular with the success of James Surowiecki's book the wisdom of crowds, a national bestseller about the virtues of collective intelligence, including prediction markets. Today, while some corporations widely use prediction markets, others are still hesitant about the whole idea.
Here is a short list of benefits and barriers about prediction markets:
Benefit 1# : On many occasions, lower-level employees who interact directly with the customer have more information about certain issues, but decision makers rarely ask their opinion. In situations like this, leaders "deprive themselves of information that could enrich their analysis and reduce the risk of ivory tower decision making". On the other hand, prediction markets allow employees to share unwelcome information about a project’s launch date or a new product’s performance anonymously, without fear about their careers. What’s more, competition among colleagues and the prospect of winning a prize create incentives for seeking information and making the best-informed bets.
Barrier: Organizations may not feel comfortable sharing the results of prediction markets with the broader group. It can be very embarrassing for management to know that everyone feels that a certain strategy is wrong. This is clearly a culrure issues but it can be a barrier against using prediction markets overall.
Benefit #2: On most occasions, information and knowledge is scattered and its difficult for management to retrieve it. Prediction markets can rapidly aggregate information dispersed across an organization.
Barrier: Deciding on the mix of participants can be a challenge. It means that organizations need to cover different constituencies, be comfortable with sharing results with them but also maintain balance between various departments, including those dedicated to forecasting (who may see the prediction markets as a threat)
Benefit #3: Prediction markets are easy to implement and their cost is low, particularly when compared to traditional types of research. As a result, management can test many different ideas and get predictions at a very low cost.
Barrier: Organizations need to carefully think about the variables that they are trying to predict and how they use the results in the context of other information sources (i.e. traditional market research). More importantly, they also need to think about some possible legal obstacles: what happens when an employee sees a prediction market price on his dashboard and realizes, that a certain product is going to be a success? Is he an insider if he trades the company stock on the real stock exchange? Remember, this is information that only a few top people had before...
So overall, prediction markets offer a number of benefits and companies can clearly benefit from using them. Their more mainstream adoption is subject to suppliers educating corporations about their benefits, but also, companies overcoming some organizational and other obstacles as described above.

The power of Music

I love music. Actually, this is an understatement. I can not imagine my life without music. I tend to believe that Music is something most people love and no one dislikes. People love music or they just like music, but they don't actively dislike music.

Music touches everyone throughout our lives. Particularly now that ipods have become such an indispensable part of our daily routine, we have started adding a soundtrack to our lives and to everything we do. Think about it. Commuting, exercising, working, dinning out, music is everywhere.

This is of course an interesting discussion, but where exactly am I going with this?

According to a recent study by WPP and Universal Music, people’s senses, their brains and their bodies can all be penetrated and deeply effected by music. Music can manipulate heartbeats and links our emotions with what our senses perceive. 6 out of 10 agree that music makes them feel different physically; almost 9 out of 10 agree that that music reminds them of special places in their past and changes their mood.

So music is power. Music can take you on a journey. Music sells, ideas, products, moments, people. I guess we've always known that. That's why we have a national anthem. That's why there is a band in the army. That's why commercials have music.

Brand amp is a Company that builds on this idea and takes it one step further.

A joint venture between WPP and Universal Music, brand amp combines the vast catalogue and knowledge of Universal, with the marketing machine of WPP. Among other things, brandamp's speciality is forging meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships between brands and bands. Check their website and play with their interface. You will feel the power of music.

6 (+1) Rules of Successful Partnerships

Have you ever wondered what makes a great partnerhsip? Is it trust? Inspiration? Or is it just chemistry? What is the magic formula that guarantees success? Here is a list of thoughts and lessons from my experience (personal and from observing other people)

Common Goals: I am not sure if this is the most important element, but I guess it's out there as one of the key drivers of successful partnerships. Think about it, can you partner with someone who has completely different goals? This means that you need to be clear about your goals to begin with.

Common Values: Although goals can be aligned, we often realize that we can achieve these goals in different ways. This is where values are important because they set the tools and the limitations. If you are not comfortable with some of the tactics that your team is using, you will always debate about it. Better off to work with people who share your values.

Complementary skills: Although its good to have common goals and values, in most cases skills should be different and complementary. Starting your own business, you need people from different disciplines and experiences. Some of them may also be smarter than you. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Communication: This is about being open and managing expectations. It about expressing your opinion, but also listening to what other people have to say. On this note, if you have to say NO, it's always better to do so earlier, than later. (If you don't say anything, people will assume that they can count on you and they will act accordingly. It will be much harder to face them later.)

Flexibility: We all need to kill our babies from time to time. If you had a great idea and your team thinks differently, you need to listen to their point of view and that may mean killing the idea.

Leadership and team: Sometimes you need to support the team even if you are not 100% in agreement (unless it's a values issue in which case you should do what you feel is right). Sometimes, you need to step down so someone else can lead the way. This in fact is the essence of a team. The question that you need to ask yourself is "I am better off having 5% of something bigger or 100% of nothing?"

Try to apply these rules in your team and see what happens. I bet that if your team is strong, it's because some of these things have been established. Then of course there is chemistry: sometimes you are just connected with someone in a relationship. But then again, partnerships are like real relationships. Romance is important, but you still need to have some things in common and be willing to work with someone for the mutual benefit.

A post about Facebook

Granted, Facebook is yesterday's news, or so I think, but it's such an interesting story nevertheless.

Think about it. The whole journey from zero to startup-stardom took only a couple of years. Exponential growth, excitement all around, Facebook has been the darling of web2.0 for a while. But as we all know it's not only about getting there. It's about staying alive and staying on the cutting edge. Facebook was on the bleeding edge for a while and now it's... not any more.

So is Facebook in a free fall? For one thing, the site has reached a plateau, actually it's probably losing users and at the very least, it looks like engagement is not as strong as it used to be. As users are getting tired of the myriads of applications, new applications are not as successful any more. After all, there so many of them that the marginal utility of a new application is diminishing (as we say in economics). This in turn means that developers have less of a motive to build for Facebook. We know what that means.
Meanwhile, the site hasn't really figured out how to make money. So if and when they run out of cash, the old valuation of 15 billion will be tested again.

When I was studying marketing they use to teach us about the lifecycle of a product: introduction, growth maturity, decline. Somehow, the term lifecycle had a different meaning back then. Maybe its the word "life" that had connotations of a longer time.

Things are so different today, in the world of new media.

Interview with Lingospot: 3+1 Lessons for startups and the road ahead

So here is the interview with Nikos Iatropoulos, the CEO of Lingospot. The objective of the interview was twofold:
1-to learn more about the past and the future of this dynamic new company;
2-to extract some key learnings in order to help aspiring entrepreneurs.

In their own words (from the website) “Lingospot is an in-text content discovery service enabling authors to increase reader engagement and dynamically interlink their content.” It appears that the company is growing fast and has achieved some major milestones. We are wishing them good luck with their next steps.

Here it goes:

outoftheborders: What is Lingospot? How does the service work?

Nikos Iatropoulos:
Lingospot is an in-text content discovery service. We believe that consumers are undergoing a shift in the way they find content online. They are moving away from actively searching for such information to “discovering” it.

Our vision is to dynamically interconnect the web through streams of such contextual content discoveries facilitated by our technology. The Lingospot technology consists of proprietary natural language processing and search algorithms that “understand” what a page is about, identify the most important elements of the page, and find relevant content from across the site and the web.
Such content can include links to related articles that the reader can navigate to as well as content that can be consumed within the Lingospot bubble, such as Wikipedia definitions, photos, videos, etc.

Outoftheborders: Who is this service for?

Nikos Iatropoulos:
Lingospot offers solutions for various types of authors, large publishers or bloggers. Eitherway, the benefits are great as Lingospot can increase the number of page views and the time spent on the website, also improving reader utility and engagement.

Can you please describe the key milestones that you have achieved so far? What are the learnings that you have personally acquired as an entrepreneur from this journey?

Nikos Iatropoulos:
It’s been a very exciting journey. Here is what we have achieved so far:

1-Launch of our product in Beta – seeing our service run on a live website!
2-Incorporating, raising our first capital and moving into offices – being a real company!
3-Hiring our first 3 employees, who along with the 2 founders completed the founding team (CEO, CTO, SVP Sales, 2 Engineers)
4-Launching our commercial version and signing up our first major publisher (Forbes)

There is a lot of new learning, and some important lessons:

1-The first five people of a company determine its success or failure
2- You never know what features will work in a product until you test them in the market
3- The most important attribute of a small entrepreneurial company is the ability to quickly react to the marketplace and change its direction overnight.

Outoftheborders: Niko, this is not the first time that you start a company. Is it different now compared to the past and in what way?

Nikos Iatropoulos:
Having started a software company back in 2000, things now seem a lot easier today. Software development tools and hardware is much cheaper. Open source has reached a point where it is better or as good as commercial software. Servers, bandwidth and collocation costs are also much cheaper. Compared to 2000, I would estimate that you can start an internet service company for about 1/5th of the cost. This allows a team to complete product development and roll out a product with very little cost, without the need of external financing. This is good news. The bad news, is that it’s become easy for everyone, so competition is more intense.

Outoftheborders: What are the next steps for Lingospot?

Nikos Iatropoulos:
Now that our products are in the market, our next step is to grow our presence in both the large publisher world and the blogosphere. This will require growing our team, opening sales offices in New York, London and Beijing and investing in infrastructure. To do so, the company is currently looking for a round of Series A financing that will enable it to make these investments in growth.

Upcoming Interview with Nikos Iatropoulos, CEO of Lingospot

As I promised you last week, I have secured some very exciting interviews that will hopefully add an interesting twist to our discussion. I will be starting tomorrow with Nikos Iatropoulos, CEO of LingoSpot

Quick Background: Lingospot is an in-text content discovery service. Their technology consists of proprietary natural language processing and search algorithms that “understand” what a page is about, identify the most important elements and find relevant content from across the site and the web, which then presents in an easy to consume "bubble".

Mr Iatropoulos will talk about the history of Lingospot and reveal some of the company's future plans. He will also share some practical learnings from his experience as a serial entrepreneur, particularly in view of the market conditions today.

Stay tuned.

Listening to what people have to say. Or not.

"Is it generally a good idea to listen to your customers?" Sounds like a silly question... after all the customer is the King.


I was thinking about this last night, after a discussion that I had with a client. Then, I saw this interesting post this morning, explaining how hard it is to listen to your customers and I couldn't help but agree (I have spent many years doing marketing research, including customer satisfaction surveys)

Nevertheless..., I also felt like challenging the premise that we always need to listen to our customers. (I am not suggesting that we shouldn't, but there is more to it, please bear with me for a minute)

Have you heard of Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid and their Most Wanted painting research?

Well here is what they did: they went out to to discover what a true "people's art" would look like, and they conducted a poll... The result was America's Most Wanted and America's Least Wanted paintings, which were exhibited in New York at the Alternative Museum under the title "People's Choice."

Since most people preferred outdoors scenes, it was a landscape. Since most people liked lakes or rivers or oceans, and another large percentage liked forests and fields, the painting included a wooded area and a grassy verge near a large body of water. The painting's predominant color was the one nearly everyone preferred -- blue sky and blue water. Since people liked wildlife in their paintings, two deer gamboled in the water. The answers were mixed as to whether there should be human figures in the painting, and whether those figures should be contemporary or historical, so the final work included small human figures dwarfed by the landscape: three children, and, standing off to the side, George Washington...

Most wanted painting:

So here is the question:
What would art look like if it were to please the greatest number of people? Or conversely: What kind of culture is produced by a society that lives and governs itself by opinion polls? Stagnant, boring and flat if you ask me.

Back to our discussion: I feel that the extent to which we need to listen to our customers (by that I mean how much, how often and in what way) is very much related to the business that we are in and to our objectives. If you have a functional product or service, then understanding problems and receiving feedback is critical. If, on the other hand, you are in the business of "sparkling magic", then its a different story. You need to stand out, challenge and innovate. You need to combine structure and creativity. Its like listening and asserting in a way, probably more asserting than listening in this case.

But then again you need to have something interesting to say.

Google TV Ads: the good the bad and the future

As expected, google officially launched their TV ads platform after months of speculation. With this new dashboard buyers will be able to manage TV campaigns, which of course sounds like most of what a media buyer does.
The good: a very easy and intuitive dashboard that gets you going in minutes. You can even find creative if you don't have one, and for a limited time google covers the cost (up to $2000, not bad). Overall, the system tries to make the TV ad process more accountable and measurable. It works through an auction model, where advertisers state the most they’re willing to pay on a cost-per-thousand impressions basis, and don’t pay until the ad airs.
The bad: There is not such thing as a free lunch. Google’s TV ads are limited to Dish’s 14 million subscribers for now. The funny thing is that they don't mention it anywhere in their demos... its funny when people do this. Of course it's a start. But then SpotRunner has been doing this for a while and then project Canoe (sponsored by the big cable companies) will probably shake things when launched. Cable companies are investing $150mil on this.
The future: Either way, the advertising landscape is changing. There is clearly more flexibility now to manage campaigns, even at a local or more sporadic level. Of course, cable providers want a share of the pie. They also have richer user data so they can optimize targeting and increase effectiveness. As this will be happening, advertisers' expectations will also change and then maybe traditional roles of media and buyers will follow.