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LBiQ’s in New York, where LBi’s NYC agencies give us insights into new ways of shopping, new ways of winning votes and how Manhattan’s digital advertising industry is a load of serious balls.
This time it’s mobile – we look at how a still maturing market is changing the way we live our lives today.
FOCUS Marketing: Is mobile marketing the next big thing? We examine the space in detail from page 20. Looking deeper still, Street Fighting Brands on page 24 considers the hype around mobile social networking and Breakout on page 36 looks at the opportunities for advertiser-funded gameplay on our phones. Elsewhere, in This Fruit Divine on page 64, LBiQ asks whether or not we’re really ready for a world where our handsets know us better than we know ourselves.
Society: Mobile means we do things differently these days. In Adventures in the Nearly Now on page 31, LBi’s Stephen Barber talks to Professor Stephen Heppell about new time spaces, changing economic models and the growing power of connected computing in our pockets. Luxury Calling on page 40 surveys the wildest extremes of the handset market and – in Guernica in Harajuku on page 46 - we ask whether society would ever want to turn back the mobile technology clock.
Creative, design and user experience: Making mobile work is as much about the design of services and their interfaces as it is the technology behind them. Starting from page 70, creative heads from both Saatchi & Saatchi and LBi discuss what it takes to get properly creative on the smallest of our screens. Meanwhile, in Tighten up Your Tentacles on page 74, Warren Hutchinson of LBi calls for a focus on ‘portable’ rather than ‘mobile’ before Vodafone’s European User Experience team takes us through some insights into current trends driving the market forwards on page 78.
Technology: Finally, pulling it all together and making it work. On page 82 we consider an example of mobile’s potential to innovate in the knowledge management space and on page 84 LBi’s Jon Russell talks us through what it takes to bring a mobile strategy alive.
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Everything we couldn’t fit in anywhere else. This time, that means reviews of the latest thinking from Seth Godin, Nicholas Carr and Lee Siegel, commentary on Wal-Mart’s latest social strategies, the wireless protocol that refuses to die and – in From a Young Cleric in the 22nd Row – the legacy of the late Gary Gygax, the original Dungeon Master.
Is it all just Raging Bull again? FOCUS EDITORIAL puBliShiNg tV
The Wayback Machine is the foul rag and bone shop of the web. Enter any URL and you can see how that page looked in the past: archaic design; naïve claims of connectedness; and visions of the future spelled out in blinking GIFs and scrolling text. If Google doesn’t have it, and if you know how to find it, then archive.org might be able to help.
This issue of LBiQ focuses on all things mobile. I’m travelling in the Wayback Machine to find a long-erased article of mine, originally written during the technology boom at the start of this century. At the time, I took the (angry, disappointed, possibly intoxicated) view that the hype around mobile at the tail end of the dot-com boom was patently insane. And now, reading the piece in 2008 when mobile’s back in the news, I can’t avoid a sickly sense of déjà vu. In 2000, the network operators in many markets were taken to the cleaners by their governments in sealed-bid auctions for shares of the 3G radio spectrum. For the UK and Germany, this rip-off was to the tune of £22.5 billion and £30 billion respectively. And all this despite the precedent of a 1999 auction in the US being re-run when the ‘lucky’ winners found themselves defaulting on their payments. With operators obliged to see this inflated price as a tax pre-paid on behalf of their future users (that’ll be you, by the way), it was unsurprising that all manner of costly mobile data services were being pushed as the next big thing. But, with only around 5% of the online audience ever accessing the mobile web, this vision of a Deus ex Nokia and the triumph of possibility over probability it represented was never likely to find itself made flesh. Fast-forward to spring 2008. Mobile data charges are now far more reasonable, but it’s still only a relatively slight percentage of us
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4 Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
who use our phones to go online on a regular basis. And yet, a bullish hype is back in the air, emanating this time not just from the network operators and handset manufacturers but also from hardcore web media players such as Google and Yahoo. In the face of this déjà vu, there’s only one question this issue sets out to answer: is the current mobile hype actually real this time, or is it all just once again a pile of raging bull born of heavily vested interests? Our conclusion? Well, we find ourselves on the bright side of the road – and our optimism comes from an unexpected source. I’ve never necessarily been a fan of whatever Steve Jobs tells us the next big thing is going to be; but I am a fan of anyone who takes the care and the time to design properly brave products and services that people actually want to use. It’s seems I’m not alone. A respect for the impact of Apple’s iPhone was threaded through almost every conversation, every interview and every piece of research we conducted for this issue. Not only does the iPhone redefine the idea of what a mobile web experience ought to be, it also raises customer expectations in any number of other areas that could change the current mobile market for the better. Take, for example, the seamless integration of YouTube and iTunes into the handset. This doesn’t just point the way to new possible models for digital music distribution, but also to a way of delivering on the long-held dream of mobile TV – something we discuss in more detail on page 44. Then there’s the way in which the iPhone and iPod Touch firmly assert the customer’s inalienable right to have Wi-Fi connectivity shipped as standard on all mobile devices. It’s a move that challenges the networks and handset manufacturers as much as it empowers the consumer. Suddenly the future looks properly bright – perhaps for the first time.
The iPhone also gives us a final parallel between the broken dreams of 2000 and our present stage in the mobile hype cycle. 2000 was the year that UK operator BT Cellnet launched their first generation WAP service. A high profile campaign (painfully recalled on page 18) earnestly promised “the internet is now mobile”, only to deliver a slow, textbased ersatz experience. As a result, both consumer and market confidence took a fall. Then, just the other night, my TiVo finger slipped in fast-forwarding an ad-break, and there it was: the latest iPhone campaign – promising “the internet in your pocket”. Only this time the advert means exactly what it says. This isn’t to say that I’m now looking at the iPhone like it’s some long-awaited mobile messiah (it’s more like John the Baptist, pointing towards the coming of the light) but I am now ready to take the mobile internet seriously. Not that my view matters in the least. The fact that I can remember the last time around means that my vision is probably failing with age. As Luke Taylor, CEO of LBi points out on page 14, seeing the true opportunity of mobile is more properly the province of the young. Observe a younger audience interacting with new technology for any length of time and you’ll soon realise that what can seem difficult, unlikely and even scary to us is actually simple, inevitable and positive for society. Meanwhile, mobile aside, LBiQ’s been in New York where we’ve been trying out new ways of shopping, throwing in our lot with Barack Obama and talking a whole lot of balls about digital advertising. Enjoy.
An entire generation of digi-savvy youth with no memory of life before the internet is shifting many of its social behaviors online. We spoke with New York agency LBi IconNicholson about how the firm recently harnessed the power of social networking to help its client, renowned fashion designer Nanette Lepore, better connect and engage with her customers.
It’s a bright, cold day in March, and Joseph Olewitz of LBi IconNicholson appears to be wearing a particularly tasteful green silk Nanette Lepore blouse. Or more accurately, his reflection is. The blouse floats over his image in the mirror like a hologram as he demonstrates his agency’s new digital solution for retail – a solution that was developed for designer Nanette Lepore to help her reach a young, female audience for a unique brand experience. “No comments about size please,” jokes Olewitz. Piloted in Bloomingdale’s flagship store in Manhattan last spring, LBi
IconNicholson’s Social RetailingSM innovation invites shoppers to get instant feedback from online friends through an interactive mirror. The mirror also lets customers try on clothes ‘virtually’ by overlaying the garment on their reflection. The Social RetailingSM concept represents the first, true integration of online social shopping with the in-store experience. It was selected by TIME Magazine as one of “The Best Inventions of 2007”. Now, Olewitz and Christopher Enright – the agency’s CTO – are taking us through its features with a personal demonstration.
“It’s all about improving the customer experience for a better ROI.” 6
Standing in front of this mirror, the user is able to take advantage of a high definition camera that can send their image to the web in real-time. Friends or relatives logged into the (secure) online session can then give their opinions on a garment or use the system to suggest complementary or alternative clothing choices. These suggestions appear immediately on the shopper’s mirror and can be ‘tried on’ instantly for real-time feedback. Shopping with someone along for advice has long been common practice, and now – with camera-phones ubiquitous – so is the phenomenon of shoppers taking a picture of a dress or a pair of shoes and sending it to a friend. The Social RetailingSM experience extends this behavior beyond the bricks and mortar shop and into the virtual. “In the trial we saw men using the mirror to ask their mothers and sisters about clothes they were buying,” says Olewitz, ”just as they would if they were alongside them in the store.”
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The Social RetailingSM launch at Bloomingdale’s demonstrated the solution’s tremendous capacity to expand brand awareness. During the trial run in NY, customers were receiving in-store feedback from individuals around the world, including China, Germany, UK and Latin America. These international participants were able to engage with Lepore’s brand and inventory without ever setting foot in the actual Bloomingdale’s store. Social RetailingSM also generated a flurry of media attention for Lepore, with coverage in over 80 global newspapers, 30 trade journals and 12 million blog readers. That’s not a bad ROI for PR alone, considering that the installation at Bloomingdale’s cost less than a one-time, full-page ad in The New York Times. This widespread media coverage, coupled with a four-fold same-day sales increase during the trial at Bloomingdale’s, illustrates the real-world effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing when it’s prompted by a solution like Social RetailingSM. Moving forward, the experience developed around this groundbreaking application will be applied to other client innovations that enrich how we live our lives today. ”We have an understanding of where social media is going,” Enright tells us. “We’re looking at a complete mobile application that can easily connect customers to contacts or friends-lists on any of the social networking sites. Soon we’ll be able to archive video for future sharing. Imagine a bride in the U.S. who wants advice on her bridal gown from her mother who lives in Tokyo. Three different fittings and her mother and friends around the world will be able see them all. This has never been possible before. With Social RetailingSM, there is now a real world experience that can leverage what people online have been doing for some time.” Equally as important as the magic that the system creates for customers and shoppers is the added value it can provide in concert with other emerging technologies such as Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tagging – a technology that’s becoming increasingly common for better supply chain efficiency, loss prevention and helping to manage out-of-stocks. The business benefits are clear and studies for retailers like Wal-
Mart show positive ROI results, with reductions in out-of-stocks (where a sale is lost due to poor inventory management) of up to 30% thanks to radio frequency devices. How does this help LBi IconNicholson with its focus on improving the customer experience in the store? “What we suggest to retailers is that by pushing RFID inventory tagging as far back as possible into the supply-chain, they can increase their return on investment and set the stage for the types of innovative customer experiences that we’re known for,” says Olewitz. “It’s all about improving the customer experience for a better ROI.” This is a market leading application in an area typically dominated by technology specialists such as IBM and others. However Social RetailingSM – like Apple’s iPod and iPhone – clearly shows that technology alone isn’t enough. World-class design, sound business strategy and innovative technology
are all needed to create a customer experience that drives competitive advantage. Helping its clients to “engage, delight, and interact with their customers” is an area in which LBi IconNicholson excels and is a recognized pioneer. They’ve defined the industry’s leading edge since Tom Nicholson founded the company in 1987 as New York City’s first digital agency, and they continue as a leader on the NYC scene today. Talk to Enright in the firm’s Innovation Lab, a corner of the future within the walls of Manhattan’s historic 19th century Puck Building, and it’s clear that Social RetailingSM is just one of many examples. “We’ve been finding innovative solutions to clients’ business problems for over 20 years’, says Enright. “What interests me most is taking technology to the next level, working with some of the most talented designers and thinkers in the industry. The most exciting assignment for me? I’d have to say it’s the next one.”
WATCHING THE PROSPECTIVES As the build-up to the Presidential elections continues, the web is both battlefield and weapon in the most over-exposed political contest yet. LBiQ takes a front row seat in New York.
Forget Heroes. Forget even that second season of Dexter. LBiQ’s favourite show of 2007 had to be Mad Men. Set on Madison Avenue at the start of the 60s, the show presents a view of its times through the eyes of the team at a hip American advertising agency. Part of Mad Men’s appeal comes from its attention to the historical context and detail underlying its plot development. This is never more apparent than in the story arc reflecting the presidential race between the then Vice President Richard Nixon and the young Republican Senator John F Kennedy. The show’s fictional agency Sterling Cooper holds the Nixon account and we follow its fortunes through to Kennedy’s eventual victory on November 8th 1960. This was the original mass media election campaign. For the first time, televised debates between the candidates exposed them to a new kind of scrutiny from their electorate – no longer about just policies alone, the criteria for decision had evolved to include personal demeanour and appearance.
The first of the four “Great Debates” of the campaign started in September and nearly 70 million Americans tuned in to watch. In the eyes of this audience, the tanned and healthy Kennedy was judged to have triumphed over the pasty Nixon, recently out of hospital and too proud (or simply naïve) to wear make-up for the cameras. By the time Kennedy entered the White House, the American public felt a closer, more personal connection to their candidates than ever before – regardless of whether this was based on personality and appearance over policies. Much as radio’s growth as a mass-medium assisted Roosevelt’s ‘fireside chat’ presentation of a familiar and human approach to politics, so the new visual medium of TV benefited the good-looking candidate who would go on to be the first pinup president. Fast forward nearly forty years and a new presidential race is on, only now television is the least of it. Flying into Manhattan at the start of March, LBiQ finds itself at the heart of it. We’re sitting with Rob
Holzer in the archetypically NYC live/work loft-conversion offices of creative agency LBi Syrup, and we’re discussing HopeActChange. com – a site developed and put live by the agency in little more than a week. At the site’s core is a video produced by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas for his “Yes We Can Song”, based on a speech made by Democrat candidate Barack Obama. Directed by Jesse Dylan and featuring a number of other musicians and actors, the video received multiple millions of views on YouTube within a week: it’s very much a Marshall Mcluhan wet dream. This is, of course, hardly the first ‘internet election’. That dubious honour should properly go to the 2004 presidential race where a grass roots campaign, conducted primarily though use of event planning site meetup.com, propelled Howard Dean (a minor Vermont contender) to frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Dean’s campaign, on which – tellingly – Cluetrain coauthor David Weinberger consulted, used the web to inform and stimulate voters and, most importantly, to drive them out to real world
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contributions and events: positioning “the candidate as place,” as Weinberger put it. The Pew Internet Report tells us that during the 2004 campaign 63 million Americans went online specifically to ‘pull’ political information, 32 million traded email jokes about the candidates and 19 million watched online videos. Now, in an online environment augmented by YouTube, MySpace and the rise of the blogosphere, the prospective candidates are (predictably) all over the conversational and connective tools of web 2.0. The scale can be quite frightening. Barack Obama doesn’t just have his own social network, his own branded “Go Obama” SMS direct response mechanic for supporters and a personal channel into supporters through hipper-than-thou microblogging service Twitter, he also has strong grass roots support from content creators.
Earlier in the presidential race, Hilary Clinton’s team pulled off a superbly timed parody of the final scene of the last ever Sopranos, Republican John McCain can boast a sassy, snarky blog by his 23 year old daughter (“I’ve given up heels for Chuck Taylors… I just can’t wear heels on the road anymore”) and on November 5th supporters of long-shot Texan Republican Ron Paul managed to raise $4.3 million through internet donations on just a single day. With the web now the primary media channel for hopeful candidates, it comes as no surprise to hear that Google has opened a Washington based sales office specifically to sell highly targeted advertising against niche demographic groups. It’s into this climate that LBi Syrup’s work has been launched. The Hope Act Change site is about more than simply
Obama’s candidacy – it allows all Americans to sign up and upload their own content in support of hope and change across the nation. “The 2008 election has ignited America into action around political change,” says Holzer, “and we couldn’t have asked for a better platform to execute some of our conceptual thinking around collaborative intelligence to find ways to engage people into action online.” A political process where advertising is no longer in charge of promoting candidates’ images and where the views of the electorate can reach as big an audience as those for official party political broadcasts? Donald Draper, creative director of Mad Men’s fictional Sterling Cooper would turn in his grave, but from the Vestry Street loft office of LBi Syrup, the view is exhilarating.
“It’s a Marshall Mcluhan wet dream moment.” 9
SERIOUS BALLS AT SYRUP
New York- As the advertising world obsesses over the idea of emotional and experiential marketing you have to wonder whether these people really understand what either word means. Cooped up in a corner cubicle how could anyone possibly comprehend life outside the buzz words?
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At LBi Syrup, emotional and experiential communications have been brought to a whole new level. From the moment one walks out of the elevator it’s evident that frankly speaking, the office has serious balls.
Stroll past the reception and around the corner beyond the conference room, and there, between the kitchen and the bathrooms, glistening under soft light that beams in through the old factory windows is the holy grail of everything emotional and experiential, the Syrup ping pong table. The unofficial epicenter of all camaraderie, competition, and creative brainstorming at Syrup, no one could have ever guessed the impact this seemingly innocuous gift would have on the everyday lives of Syrupinos and Syrupinas. Paul Vlachou, designer and reigning Syrup ping pong champion, reflects on how the game has changed his life; “When I’m not playing pong I’m designing, but I’m constantly craving the rubbery touch of the paddle or the sweet sounds of the ball as it caresses the table. There is something about this game... something that can bring out the best in an individual and help them unleash an unknown potential.” Mr. Vlachou is not alone in his deeply emotional feelings about the sport.
Throughout the day, designers, programmers, writers, producers and account directors can be found tapping the balls back and forth brainstorming ideas or just escaping the incandescent glow of the monitor to reconnect with the physical world. For Kansas Waugh, Account Director at LBi Syrup, the game is an emotional outlet, a place to be himself outside the conventions and status-quo of office life. “There is no time, no chance to move my body like a weasel in public and have it construed as an acceptable and even necessary motion. But when the curtain does come down – as it must – and I return to my desk for sitting time, I am secretly dancing, practicing speed work with my feet.” Some find it bizarre that Syrup has taken to a sport often designated to children and nerds and even within the office there are those embarrassed by the enthusiasm. But advertising agencies are competitive by nature, and nerdy at the same time. We fight against other offices to win clients. We judge our careers by trophies and define ourselves by the strength of the team
“I think that when you get talent from other countries you get people looking at things differently. They approach their creative in a very different way. People come more from a design background where as here in America it’s more advertising driven. Also since I am from Europe I tend to relate more to a continental look,” explains Mr. Daschek.
we are part of. So shouldn’t we want to be the best damn ping pong team on the planet? At Syrup competition is a necessary part of the equation that we’ve learned to thrive off of. In the summer of 2007 the Syrup soccer (football) team went undefeated, breezing through a bracket of 64 media and creative industry teams to be crowned Adidas Cup champions. This past week the Syrup ping pong team made it to the semi-finals in the Puma Table Tennis Tournament, losing on the last point in a heated duel against the team that went on to win the title. For spectators the scene was a mix of quirky fanaticism and WWF style screaming and chanting. As a boutique agency in a world of big fish it’s a wonder that Syrup has become so dominant in the sporting world against shops with hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees. Jakob Dascek, Chief Creative Officer of LBi Syrup explains why, “We simply want to be the best at everything we do, even ping pong!” Over the past couple years Mr. Daschek has put together a creative team that hails from all over the world including; Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Australia and Taiwan.
“I think that when you get talent from other countries you get people looking at things differently. They approach their creative in a very different way. People come more from a design background where as here in America it’s more advertising driven. Also since I am from Europe I tend to relate more to a continental look,” explains Mr. Daschek.
Turns out that international talent translates into a serious sports advantage. Pierre Byman, Account Manager and member of both the Syrup ping pong team and soccer team remembers growing up in Sweden “Playing ping pong in a bunker with friends for over 12 hours without food or sunlight.” Whether you call that dedication or lunacy, either way it explains his skill and the training certainly helps for the all-nighters leading up to a pitch. Ofcourse there are those at Syrup who do not play, whose time is spent sending out invoices to GE, programming alternative realities for Gwen Stefani, or writing manifestos for luxury hotels to pioneer new green movements. How do these people feel about the office obsession? Lady Vida Ehn, Studio Manager explains, “I love the sound of happy little bouncing balls.” Executive Producer, Kate Cunningham concurs, “I can’t work or sleep without that sound.” Celebrating our love of the game and challenging the banality of design in Ping Pong, Syrup decided to create our own unique ping pong aesthetic hoping to make the sport a little more fun and colorful. Since customization has become king, we thought it only fitting that our paddles and balls reflect the emotion and experience of our character and the attitude of our lifestyle and culture. Are the balls at Syrup really being served up that serious? Elin Elin Svegsjö, Account Executive, has a message for the world, “My forehand will teach you the meaning of buzz words.” © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
There’s a popular line in a lot of the ad blogs lately that highlights the importance of measuring marketing’s influence rather than simply just its reach: don’t look to measure impressions; measure the impressed.
Luke Taylor, CEO of the LBi Group, talks rabbits, playgrounds, and the iPhone as he explains his passion for the mobile trends and technologies discussed in this issue.
This also provides a useful frame for looking at the future of the mobile internet. It’s easy to be underwhelmed by figures suggesting that only 14% of European mobile customers use the mobile internet once a month or more, but look beyond this to the most impressed demographic of all, youth, and you quickly gain a different perspective. At the moment, a new generation is using mobile technology to define and shape their day-to-day lives. They’re doing this in ways that can seem alien to many of us over 30, but they’re also highlighting increasing opportunities for those brands that can best use creative content and interactions to drive community, conversations and loyalty through the channel. In our house we’ve got a 7 year old. Every day we wake up to the sounds of various inanimate objects like my daughter’s Nabaztag rabbit, all controlled by wireless technologies and all hooked into both her phone and her friends’ phones. She’s part of an age group that’s driven by curiosity and desire for acceptance. These are needs that can inform both playground behaviour and patterns in later life. Right now, their mobile phones are right there in the playground with them, helping them to swap content, build community and develop friendships. The tweeny demographic is acquiring technical literacy and competence so rapidly that by the time they become the main consumer generation in a few years their
interaction with what many currently see as ‘futuristic’ next generation services will be entirely natural. I’m someone who just had to get an iPhone as soon as I possibly could. The iPhone fosters a genuine sense of belief and credibility in the mobile internet experience. The first generation of WAP was burdened with poor quality of execution, but now we’re seeing a device in which form, function, aspiration and intent have truly been combined for the first time. When my daughter plays with it, though, there’s none of this negative baggage to compare it to; it’s just what it is. The world that this emergent generation lives in is one with no perceived walls between virtual and real-world lives. If you look at the amount of time that kids are spending in communities like Club Penguin before going out into the playground and swapping content on their phones, it’s amazing. Start overlaying GPS and other context-based services on this kind of behaviour and we could easily end up with an interesting and compelling nexus between friends, storytelling, community and physical space. I think that what we’ll see being developed soon are really quite sophisticated environments which foster friendships and community, that are educational, and which can intersect with tools or services that tie into the real world. At the moment there’s this separation in a lot of people’s minds between the physical world and the more ethereal virtual ones we occasionally inhabit. As technologies evolve I think we’ll start seeing these new spaces as ones which connect with and help to augment reality, rather than as separate channels for cold, impersonal and disconnected experiences.
What’s going to be interesting is when we start seeing brands properly trying to impress (and make the right impression on) their audiences. As soon as you stop seeing mobile as a discrete channel of its own and recognise that it plays an ever more important part in people’s real lives, whole new areas of opportunity open up. It’s also important to stop thinking of mobile services as just tied to our phones; the future’s going to be about a much wider universe of interconnected Mobile Internet Devices. The rabbit that wakes my daughter with messages from her friends is just a simple first step in this direction. In this world, brands sometimes need to be brave and allow themselves more creative license than they’re often comfortable with. An older generation sees mobile as simply a functional service channel, but to the next generation it’s much more about the extension of character and personality. Much like the This is Living work we recently did on the web for PlayStation, brands looking to make the right impression on a younger audience need to concentrate as much on developing an intensity of tone as they do on driving experiences through functionality and utility. Brand marketers need to understand that developing tonality, atmosphere and character is one of best starting points for relationships that can see you invited into customer communities and conversations. Within 5 years, use of the mobile internet is predicted to increase by nearly 3 times to 38%. Much of this will be driven by an audience who – while they may be under your radar right now – are demonstrating behaviours and attitudes which point to a more than healthy mobile future.
“To me my iPhone’s amazing, but to my 7 year old it’s just what it is.” 14
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It may seem like overkill to dedicate 68 pages of LBiQ solely to current developments and thinking in the mobile space, but when putting this issue together it became clear to us that we were barely scratching the surface of the subject. Almost every day of the production process brought still more news and articles into the mobile folder of our RSS reader, all reinforcing our editorial view that not since early 2000 have we seen such a
determinedly optimistic focus on this space. Developments in m-commerce, locationbased services, innovative models for mobile marketing and a new generation of handsets have all placed mobile high on the industry agenda. These have combined to drive a renewed advertiser and agency interest in the potential of a channel which, this time around, looks like it can finally deliver on its earlier promises.
Still, while we might not have been able to fit everything in, and while luxuriating in a quarterly print format runs the risk of the goalposts moving yet again before you even read this, there should certainly be enough here to help you make your own mind up, to fuel thinking around future mobile initiatives and to give a vision of where mobile might be moving in the next few years.
Focus: mobile – hype or hope? As Apple’s iPhone demonstrates, a truly mobile internet now has the potential to become a mass-market reality. LBiQ looks at the
opportunities offered by a medium that’s taken 10 years to grow up.
BROKEN DREAMS LBiQ can’t hear the words ‘mobile internet’ without remembering the early hype of WAP and empty promises of a world immeasurably improved by mobile technology. Now mobile’s back in the spotlight, and maybe we can forgive. Maybe things will be different this time around. © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
You can feel it happening. The rumbling’s getting louder and, if you’ve read the latest numbers from Gartner on the global mobile advertising sector, you’re almost certainly going to be feeling a little flushed and dizzy… As the market prepares to explode, LBiQ looks at the hype and hopes around advertising on the most intimate of all our screens.
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Are our phones really going to start issuing forth a flood of mobile advertising to the value of €1.7 billion this year alone? Will that figure (already up from €1.1 billion in 2007) then hit €8.2 billion by 2011? Well, that’s what the analysts are saying. Critics, however, will tell you otherwise – that it’s easy to envision scenarios where a rash boom in mobile marketing makes turning on your phone an experience akin to opening a pile of Sunday magazine supplements and shaking the tatty advertising inserts straight into the recycling bin. These figures come from an analysis of the global mobile advertising market published by Gartner Research in March this year. It’s a report full of rhetoric that in places seems almost nostalgic – we’ve heard many of these lines before. In particular, a familiar warning riff on the nature of users’ personal relationships with their phones and the resultant need for ‘real’ relevance is played out with the volume cranked up to 11. “All parties win when greater relevancy occurs,” Gartner announce to the crowd, and “the market and consumer will gravitate to content and advertisement messages that are relevant to them.” While this theory may not be anything new (concepts of etiquette around appropriate use of mobile in marketing are as old as the century) the time finally seems right to put it into practice. A number of innovations around mobile data pricing models and improved device capabilities for text entry and page rendering, when coupled with handset saturation in many markets, are finally starting
to make advertising models for a truly popular mobile internet properly plausible at last. Alongside this, research seems to point to a new and surprising effectiveness in the much maligned mobile display advertising market. Last August, leading brand research house Millward Brown ran a study in the UK to measure the impact of mobile on ad awareness and brand consideration. Conducted on behalf of a major global grooming brand, its findings showed that a WAP banner increased awareness by more than 30%, with future purchase consideration growing 23% among current users of the brand and 11% among new prospects. While differing methodologies make it impossible to compare these results directly with Millward Brown’s data on the online display market, the average increase in awareness delivered on the web stands at 7%. Whether mobile banner advertising is simply benefiting from the ‘novelty’ factor that saw many early web banners generate clickthrough and recall rates of now unimaginable levels; or whether this really does suggest (as Aerodeon, the agency who commissioned the study, would like us to believe) that mobile display can build deep brand engagement, these figures are indisputably impressive. Similarly, a 2007 trial by UK operator O2 saw 500,000 users of their portal targeted by a range of campaigns from advertisers including Nivea and Honda. Across 16 million page impressions, a variety of executions (including banners, videos and ad-funded games) generated an average click-through rate of 6%. This compares to the 0.18% average European CTR reported by ADTECH in May last year. These successes aside (and again, the O2 figures may derive from simple novelty), the mobile advertising revolution has as many inhibitors as it does drivers. On the demand side, consumers have been slow to adopt the functionality of
internet-enabled phones and less than 20% of users with capable handsets access the web through them on a regular basis. Meanwhile, behind the scenes of the media industry, there is another set of problems altogether: the most pressing of them being a lack of transparency around measurement; the diversity of handsets that advertising needs to work across; and the immaturity of standards and best practices in the area. Talk off the record to European media specialists about their direct experience of mobile advertising and this immaturity is expressed, sometimes vehemently, in stories of media owners with sales teams lacking even a basic understanding of their offerings, let alone their benefits. For many, their conclusion from experimentation with mobile media to date is that the pain of implementation is disproportionate to results. It’s perhaps the current inability of the industry to point to real returns beyond archaic recall and click-through metrics that lies behind the results of the UK’s 2008 Mobile Marketing Awards. Despite recognising a number of truly standout creative examples, no award was made in the “Best Use of Mobile in Driving Sales and Revenue” category. Add to this the fact that at least one UK mobile network is highlighting idle screen advertising (because the insides of jacket pockets and handbags are a valuable audience for your ads) as the best opportunity for brands at the moment, and you can only conclude that there is a substantial disconnect between capability, delivery and value. How best, then, to consider the use of mobile marketing channels as we wait for the lift-off predicted by Gartner? Predictably, it’s not the mobile internet that brands should be looking to for quick wins, rather it’s SMS. SMS is a properly mature channel and remains the
“Phones spewing unwanted, interruptive and unasked for advertising into our lives” 22
primary mobile interaction after voice for all demographics. As LBi’s Jon Russell explains on page 84, the phone’s always-on, alwayswith-us nature makes integration of an SMS element into time-sensitive CRM activities inevitable as well as obvious. SMS also functions as an effective back-channel for lead generation triggered by calls to action across other channels, for example, the use of short codes within TV spots or outdoor executions to provide immediate fulfilment and value-add branded content. Then there’s the technology developed by Google-owned Zingku, which uses standard text, picture messaging and WAP technologies to allow users to forward mobile ‘flyers’ or vouchers to friends – this provides brands with the opportunity to develop p2p networks of
influence and advocacy. Another approach to using ad-supported SMS for communicating within groups is offered by UK based start-up Zygo, profiled on page 27. Also notable is ad-funded service Blyk (discussed in LBiQ 1.1) which targets text messages to consumers aged 16-24 who receive free airtime in exchange for receiving them. It’s a highly targeted approach which – while arguably light on current subscriber numbers – claims a powerful response rate of nearly 30%. Pay-per-click mobile search can be another relatively simple first step across the mobile marketing minefield. If you currently have a site optimised for mobile or are able to handle incoming ‘click to call’ enquiries then you should certainly be looking closely at your search engine optimisation. Yahoo’s Paul Yiu told a recent Search Engine Strategies conference that only the top two links are really in play when it comes to mobile search. With the often fiddly nature of
mobile device interactions a factor here, it’s a theory that makes sense. If you’re not placing top two in natural results for your brand and trademarks then start thinking about paying for these clicks; but only if you can deliver seamless fulfilment. And if the services you offer are location-based then expect targeting of pay-per-click search executions based on an automatically identified user location in the near future. As for display advertising on the mobile internet, the same proviso holds true – for real effectiveness you need to make sure that you’re able to fulfil clicks with a mobilefriendly destination site at the other end. This is itself an interesting area: should you be advertising on WAP portals with fulfilment to a dedicated mobile site? Or, taking into account the fact that devices such as the iPhone access the real web rather than the mobile one, should you just be optimising an existing site for better mobile rendering? Couple this dilemma with a report from media shop Universal McCann suggesting that ads within mobile pages actively annoy more than 60% of users, and you start to wonder whether you should even be looking into mobile display advertising in the first place. For the meantime, the state of the market seems to suggest that this is more a medium for experimentation and hypothesisdriven learning than for ROI-driven results. The same goes for the nascent market around mobile video, where a range of pre-roll and interstitial advertising options are available: wait until pain-free streaming video becomes a reality. The current experience of YouTube over 3G networks through it’s current mobile application suggests there’s still a way to go until new high speed access technologies make this as seamless as streaming over the web. Perhaps the best opportunities for brands and mobile, however, are those which can help drive more users to the channel with a higher frequency. This means providing relevant, valuable content. The mobile web has long suffered from a dearth of quality, mobileappropriate content.
Brands that sponsor or develop such content will provide a reason for users to take advantage of their often latent handset connectivity. It’s an approach being taken by brands such as Lynx and Guinness (where this is integrated into through-the-line activity) in recent UK campaigns discussed by LBi’s Simon Gill on page 72. The sponsorship of existing popular content is also something being trialled by Orange at the moment, where users are being offered the chance to download music for free in exchange for viewing ads. Most important of all though, is ensuring that customers are happy to receive your advertising – which takes us back once more to the fear of our phones spewing unwanted, interruptive and unasked for advertising into our lives. As the Gartner report puts it: “the makeor-break question of mobile advertising is will customers accept advertisements?” If you want to ensure that they accept yours then your opt-in permissions need to be as accurate and detailed as possible. You also need to work on delivering executions and messaging that drive interaction and, ideally, dialogue. After all, conversation is what your phone was intended for in the first place.
Street fighting brands As valuations of the mobile marketing sector grow, mobile social networking services are fighting for both advertising dollars and an audience. If you want an example of a company with a successful history of observing and experimenting with the latest digital trends to reach a young influencer audience, then just take Coke. Way back in 2004, Coca-Cola developed a branded music download portal. In 2005 they then partnered with Blizzard Entertainment to launch a new product in China alongside World of Warcraft’s phenomenally successful entry into the Chinese market. They’ve also been in every virtual world that counts – from the massmarket something-for-everyone Second Life to niche European and North American hangouts Habbo and There.com.
Now in both China and the US, CocaCola’s launched the world’s first credible branded mobile social network. Called the “Sprite Yard”, the network moves the Sprite brand’s online offering off the desktop and into the streets. Within the service, users are able to create profiles, make friends, message other members and download exclusive audio and video content. Of course, this being about the marketing bottom line, they’re also able to tie their mobile experience to real world Sprite purchase via additional content unlocked through PIN codes placed on bottle tops. The recent history of marketing is littered with failed examples of brands that sought to build their own social networks rather than to integrate their programmes into the communities where their customers already congregate. As such, it remains to be seen whether the value offered by Coke
is unique enough to drive preference for hanging out in the Sprite Yard rather than on the mobile versions of the main web-based players such as MySpace and Facebook. Nevertheless, Mark Greatex, Coke’s Senior VP of Marketing can’t stress the brand’s commitment to the channel enough: “We need to continue to recruit future generations of consumers. Mobile marketing is absolutely where it’s at going forward for us at the moment.” At first glance, Coke would appear to be, if not on the money, then certainly dipping its hand into the right pocket. Social networking, the wunderkind web success story of the last two years, is forecast to repeat its success on our phones. Towards the end of last year, Juniper Research issued a particularly bullish report predicting a ten-fold increase in the value of the global mobile user-generated content
market by 2012. Half of this €3.6 billion figure is expected to be generated by social networking activity. Unsurprisingly, the big players in the world of PC-based social networking are heading the charge to get users poking, commenting and messaging on the go. Leading the market, MySpace has been offering its service through Cingular Wireless, the largest of the US carriers, since 2006. In a further partnership with mobile virtual network operator Helio (discussed on page 29), the brand has even embedded its functionality in a series of bespoke handsets. For Helio’s evangelical CEO Sky Dayton, mobile and “social networking 2.0” are, quite simply, synonymous. But do consumers see things in quite the same way? In the UK, research firm M:Metrics puts the number of users accessing mobile social networks between February and October last year at 1.6 million. Of these users, nearly 680,000 used Facebook, around 417,000 were on MySpace and Bebo accounted for just over 310,000. All the major brands have done deals with the network operators (MySpace with Vodafone and O2, Facebook also with O2, and Bebo with Orange) and also provide experiences and applications tailored to specific phones and devices such as the BlackBerry and iPhone. Most recently, LinkedIn – leader in the professional networking space
– joined the mobile social scramble with both a WAP site (see page 96) and a dedicated iPhone application. The wider market also embraces a set of smaller but still thriving UK start-ups whose presence is often obscured by the prominence of the big web 2.0 brands. Brands such as Itsmy. com and Flirtomatic (whose 400,000+ users make it one of the most popular off-deck WAP destinations in the UK) have all gone straight to mobile without passing previous PC/ desktop-based SNS experiences. Then there’s Qype, which applies the model of North America’s Yelp.com to develop hyper-local communities based on reviews and recommendations of local shops and services. This, Qype is quick to point out, delivers a ‘socially useful’ service in contrast to that of the ‘time suck’ networks such as Facebook. The perceived opportunities of the mobile SNS space also mean that we’re seeing the importation of brands with prior success in more advanced mobile markets than our own. Japan’s mobikade, for example, launched in the UK last year – we discuss the challenges they’ve faced on page 28. These two sides of the mobile SNS market, the big web brands and the mobile start-ups, are targeting what appear to be two very distinct types of social mobile behaviour. For the web 2.0 players it’s about keeping in touch with your network through status updates
and messaging; all to provide users with a sense of what Jyri Engeström (co-founder of Google owned mob-logging site Jaiku) refers to extravagantly as ‘social peripheral vision’. This constant, reassuring connection to updates from your network is also something frequently referred to in the community around micro-blogging service Twitter where it’s known (still more pretentiously) as ‘ambient intimacy’. On the other side, it’s mobile users’ pursuit of a very different kind of intimacy that’s driving many of the new start-ups. Flirtomatic’s name speaks for itself, and services such as Itsmy.com also concentrate strongly on this kind of interaction. Other than ‘flirtatious’ messaging between members, much of the offering from these players is focused on content familiar from operator portals – downloadable games and customisation content such as wallpapers. This is all very much in line with the Juniper Research findings, which pegs the innocent sounding ‘dating’ as the biggest contributor to all current mobile UGC services.
“Mobile and ‘social networking 2.0’ are synonymous.” 24
As for which flavour of mobile SNS will capture the audience in the long run, it seems like a no-brainer to look at these start-up services as a temporary distraction from the main game. After all, none of the propositions pushed by the new breed present any real barrier to entry for the established players other than the damage to their brands that could be done by any embrace of the flirting/dating side of things. Combine this with the marketing power of the web-based players and the wealth of multimedia content available to them (for example, through parent company Fox for MySpace, and now through AOL for Bebo) and their long-term success in customer acquisition seems sewn up. Look beyond Europe and the US however, particularly to the developing markets of Africa, India and China, and this picture changes. Where no existing web-based brand loyalty exists, the quick to market, rapidly iterating start-ups are king. Frederick Ghahramani, a co-founder of AirG, which provides social networking services to a global customer base of operators including Sprint Nextel, China Mobile and Vodafone, is on record with the staggering statistic that 59% of their 20 million unique users around the world don’t actually own or even share a PC. Here, loyalty is being built by new straight-to-mobile brands. What will ultimately decide which mobile social networking models endure is their sustainability, and this depends on the strength of their respective propositions to advertisers. While some of the major players treat mobile access as a value-add service to be paid for by subscription through the service plans of their network partners, the future of mobile social networking is clearly – as on the web – dependent on ad-supported models. Driving advertising revenues is as much a challenge to the exorbitantly valued major players as it is to the less scrutinised start-ups. On the web, recent research by WPP points to social networks as being good for delivering PR through branded content opportunities. When it comes to direct response and display advertising, however, the picture is considerably less healthy. Compared to the most successful and accountable environments for online advertising, such as search, social networks appear to engender a user mindset of just ‘hanging out’. Unlike search, where the user is actively looking for content on other sites, SNS users are already exactly where they want to be and
too immersed in networking activity to be tempted elsewhere. As suggested on page 39 by Kristian Segerstråle of social gaming company Playfish, this immersion of the SNS user is similar to that of the TV viewer. The adverts that will achieve cut-through in this environment are more likely to be either extremely engaging or highly tailored to individuals. But such techniques come with their own risks. MySpace has already felt some backlash from users over the increasing dominance of advertising across its service, slipping from one of Time Magazine’s ‘Coolest websites of 2006’ to one of their ‘Five worst websites’ in 2007 after becoming “infested with advertisers”. Then there’s the Facebook Beacon fiasco, where users objected en masse to increasingly intimate details of their online purchasing patterns being used to promote products and services to their friends. More recently, in March this year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recanted on the “next hundred years of advertising” hype he’d previously rolled out to investors around the launch of Beacon and admitted, “We probably got a little bit ahead of ourselves.” A little bit? Not when he then went on to tell a confrontational audience at Austin’s SXSW festival that delivering the advertising model to drive Facebook to profitability would be, “a very long-term thing. It’s going to be interesting to watch this unfold over the next 15-20 years.” So, given the confused picture around advertising’s success on some of the world’s most popular social networking web sites, how can their mobile counterparts help pay for themselves with attractive advertiser propositions? Lately, one of the answers being touted is location-based advertising: bringing that ‘ambient intimacy’ a whole lot closer to home. At the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, location-aware handsets were a major theme. At its simplest, the addition of location awareness to existing mobile social networking offerings means that you’ll always know where your friends are; but then so could the adverts that follow you around. Barcelona even saw the launch of GyPSii, a global mobile social networking software platform which wears its compatibility with this new breed of handsets in the capitals of its name, and which claims to offer an innovative location-based advertising platform.
From the point of view of Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, it’s this kind of locationbased advertising that will serve as a ‘tipping point’ for mobile marketing. As such, GyPSii will prove an interesting toe to watch in the waters of both technology and consumer attitudes, hopefully helping to answer the question of whether or not location-based advertising is something that users actually want or are likely to embrace. After all, location-based context is enough to turn flirt-based mobile ‘dating’ propositions into ‘stalking’ ones, and the potential consequences of context-based ad-targeting could easily have (as we explore in This Fruit Divine on page 64) equally creepy consequences. Despite these issues, the mobile SNS players are all currently touting their offerings to advertisers. Simple WAP banners dominate, but these face the same problems with cut-through and accountability as their webbased counterparts. Although options such as click-to-call can be added to create a uniquely mobile component for ads, this is clearly not appropriate for everyone. It’s easy to understand why those with vested interest in driving the mobile media market forwards are focusing their attention so intently on location… So, in a developing environment like this (and assuming your brand doesn’t have the budget or experimental drive of a Coca-Cola) what attitude ought you to be taking towards the opportunities of mobile social marketing? Over the page we talk to two very different players in the market, both of whom stress the opportunities of simple mechanics such as SMS over display advertising. This makes sense – everyone knows SMS. You also need to make sure that any experiments in this area are geared as much towards hypothesis-driven learning as they are towards measurable impact on your bottom line. Social networking activities definitely have the potential become as dominant a feature of consumers’ mobile lives as they have in their desk-based ones, but right now realistic expectations remain uncertain. After all, social advertising is having a bad enough time on the big and relatively anonymous screens of our laptops and PCs, let alone on their micro-sized and far more intimate mobile equivalents. In the meantime be sure to keep an eye on Coke and look to learn from the lessons of pioneers.
Mobile social focus: Zygo VC-funded Zygo presents itself as a mobile social networking service for groups of people in the real world. As such, it aims to do its job without any dependency on the flashy bells and whistles of web 2.0. Mobile communities don’t all have to be about the coolest handsets and the flashiest technologies. “The best insult we’ve ever received was from one of the networks,” says Jeremy Krantz, CEO of Zygo. “They told us that we seemed “a bit retro” and they were right. Our whole service is based on simplicity and this means using the applications that people are most familiar with – voice and SMS. We wanted it to work on all handsets for people of all levels of ability, so it had to be lowest common denominator.” Appropriately, the key thought behind the service is equally straightforward. In the old world of telephony, getting hold of someone meant calling a physical location. Then, with the advent of the mobile phone, you called the individual rather than the location. Zygo’s focus, initially conceived when Krantz and the service’s other founders were working for mobile network Orange, moves this forwards to concentrate on social groups. “Groups have the same life and mobility as individuals. Groups can communicate in real life and they can also stay in touch as a group through online tools on their PCs, but when it comes to mobile it’s hard to get in touch with a group of people instantaneously. Places have their numbers, so do individuals, but, up till now, groups haven’t.” When a group leader (and this may be a social or professional group, such as a project team within an organisation) signs up to Zygo, they’re assigned their own phone number. Other group members can then be asked to join (a ‘conversational’ size of around 5-7 is seen as most suitable, though there are no limits on larger memberships) then all of them can use the same Zygo number to either text or leave a voicemail for all the other members. Voicemail functionality is seen as very much focused on corporate rather than consumer uses of the service, as is the ability
to use the single Zygo number for conferencecalling without the attendant hassles such as PIN codes. The business market looks promising for the service and the results from trials have been impressive: “People bought into it as a good organisational tool,” says Krantz, “and came out of it praising Zygo as a brilliant bonding tool.” Consumer feedback has also demonstrated that the simplicity of the service appeals successfully to users across all types of social groups, from the obvious to the unexpected. “When we trialled with AOL,” says Krantz, “we had a group who’d been brought together by their church. They didn’t know each other, but they were praying for each other over SMS. The heaviest users, though, were a group of paranormal investigators. Over 10 weeks, 7 or 8 of them sent around 10,000 messages. We also found that, on average, users reckoned they’d be part of around 7 groups in their day-to-day life – whether that’s a local five-a-side team, a weekend stag party or just a group of friends who go out regularly.” Someone, of course, has to pick up the tab for these messages. For end users, billing is handled on a central account so there’s no ‘bill-shock’ for individuals, and any member is able to settle up at any time. More interesting, however, are the scenarios where end-users might be introduced to Zygo’s service for free. An event sponsor, for example, could offer Zygo numbers to groups of friends at a sporting tournament or music festival and then top or tail their text conversations with appropriate promotions and messages.
There’s also the potential to drive deeper brand engagement with the injection of other services into these messages. In a sports context these could easily include ‘fact of the day’ content, quizzing or ‘man of the match’style polling. Moving forwards, Zygo recognises the potential to create a media channel around its offering. If you think of SMS activity across the whole network of Zygo numbers as highlytargeted programming, it’s easy to see how slots might be offered to brands for specific times in any given day across the week. Ads within usergenerated messages could provide a range of opportunities from specific offers and coupons to WAP links or even – for users comfortable with the mobile internet – links to branded video content on YouTube. There are other worthwhile applications of Zygo’s service. Krantz describes a trial of their technology in Mexico which aimed to provide support networks for HIV sufferers facing isolation from their realworld communities. The study’s organisers were looking for a simple, easily-understood communications tool that could improve the quality of people’s lives. “The project was the phone company’s largest client for messaging over that period. In the first 3 days, 40 people sent 5,000 messages. These were real, supportive relationships that users developed through their shared experience. You can learn a great deal about group behaviour from studies like this.” MySpace founder Chris de Wolfe is famously quoted as saying “We didn’t get bogged down in creating the next new technology podcasting RSS thingamajiggy, we looked at how people live their lives.” With its range of applications and its success at delivering them, Zygo’s focus on the simple supports this view. Services that make use of already popular and universally used handset functions might very well prove more effective for forging and maintaining relationships than whatever the next big thing turns out to be. There’s nothing wrong with being retro.
“Places have their numbers, so do individuals, but groups don’t. We’re changing this.” 27
Mobile social focus: MOBIKADE Adapting a Japanese mobile SNS for the UK has its challenges, but also its rewards. In Japan, they do things differently – and technology is no exception. Since 2005, Japanese government statistics have shown more users accessing the internet from mobile devices than from their PCs. What can seem like novelty in the rest of the world can easily be the norm in the streets of Tokyo and Osaka. Nevertheless, the recent history of mobile technology shows that what works in Japan won’t necessarily work in Europe or the US. Take i-mode, for example, or ‘keitai novels’ – books written to be read in instalment by users on their phones. In the first half of 2007 these accounted for five out of ten Japanese best sellers, but outside of Japan it’s a market so far from even being nascent that it’s not even a glimmer in the publishing industry’s eyes. One company trying to bridge these cultures is GNS Solutions, a subsidiary of venerable Japanese trading concern Itochu. GNS has already worked alongside Excite Japan to take London-based social music service Last.fm into the Asian market. Now, reversing the process by bringing a Japanese service over here, GNS (again in conjunction with Excite Japan) has launched a UK version of the successful Japanese mobile social network mobikade. “The biggest challenge,” says Yuki Wada of Excite Japan, “is that most of the UK audience haven’t had any experience of the mobile internet. They haven’t really felt the benefits, and it’s been expensive for them. Then there’s the dominance of SMS. In Japan we use email, because it’s easy for everyone to access it on the move. Changing our focus from email to SMS is one of the things we’ve done to make mobikade easier for UK customers to use. We’ve basically looked at the way that phones are used here and tweaked some of our features in line with this to make them work better.” Nevertheless, it’s a feature of the Japanese original that mobikade promotes as a differentiator. Users are rewarded for
their social activities through a points system designed to encourage regular use and viral friend recruitment. These points can then be redeemed against free SMS messages, content downloads or real-world prizes.
showing your screen with the coupon on at the counter.” As the market evolves, mobikade – which has spent much of its initial launch period focusing on content development
The mobikade points system also offers opportunities for driving advertiser revenues. Atul Sasane of GNS Europe is quick to highlight the way that Japanese brands have used points to incentivise participation in surveys and competitions: “It’s easy to target groups of users and get feedback from them. You can engage specific groups. In Japan we’ve seen new product and brand development research done like this.” As with the approach taken by other new players offering mobile marketing opportunities, mobikade sees SMS as being far more effective in customer acquisition
– will need to concentrate on monetisation and customer acquisition in order to meet a Q2 target of 100,000 users. To deliver against this, new features are planned. Discussions are taking place with local listings and service providers to provide value-add content for users on the move, and partnerships with third party developers will provide more content to be exchanged for points and to encourage further growth. Betting is also on the table, and this will be a uniquely UK addition to the Japanese platform. “We’ve learned that English people like to bet,” says mobikade’s Masatomo Hashimoto, almost apologetically, “but we don’t think regular betting is as interesting or as viable for us as the opportunity for users to bet on user generated topics from our communities.” Finally, there’s a necessary focus on differentiation – it’s community-based mobile services that have worked best in Japan and it’s in this area that mobikade sees an opportunity to set itself apart from the UK’s home-grown mobile SNS players. “Flirting is flirting,” says Hashimoto, “and you find that on the web as well. And many of the other competitor offerings are just focused on content – wallpapers or games. We have this content, but we’re also actively trying to build real community as well. By this summer we’ll have changed significantly and should be ahead of the pack.”
“We’ve learned that English people like to bet.' campaigns than simple WAP banners or click-to-call efforts. Also big in Japan (and towards which there have been tentative steps in other markets) is the mobile couponing market, aimed at driving sampling activity and. “You can receive a burger or sandwich offer,” says Sasane, “then use an on-site locator service to find the nearest outlet before simply
A FACEBOOK PHONE? If Facebook wants to get this right, then the key lies in making users’ mobile phones into extensions of their Facebook identities. The current Facebook mobile experience is fine, but it’s still just a web-based application and it’s very separate from the rest of the phone experience. What we’re talking about is placing Facebook at the heart of the phone, as the operating system itself. Using your phone and using Facebook could then be one seamless whole. Far-fetched? Not at all. Helio, a joint venture between South Korean Telco giant SK Telecom and North American ISP EarthLink, is building its brand with exactly this approach. Across a range of contemporary handsets, the Helio experience integrates instant messenger presence with your address book and provides a unified inbox for all e-mail, IM, text and picture messaging. Helio’s killer application for the American youth market is complete mobile integration with all desk-based MySpace features. Photos are instantly uploaded, profiles are fully editable and blogs are, well, completely
bloggable. This strategy seems to be working. On Helio’s own MySpace profile, its fans (the self-styled ‘Helions’) can’t praise the flagship Helio Ocean dual-slider handset enough: it’s “badass”, it “kicks ass” and, above all, it’s “freakin’ sick”. Helio is also an MVNO – a mobile virtual network operator (like Virgin Mobile in the UK) — so has no need to build and run its own infrastructure. This is the kind of approach that Facebook would need to take to bring some of that freaky sickness over here. It’s an interesting opportunity. Every mobile operator out there wants to own the customer experience. From this, so the accepted wisdom has it, they’ll gain customer loyalty. The operators are competing against the handset brands and it’s a war that’s going nowhere: talking to LBi’s user research teams, it seems that customers still regard the mobile operator as a commodity to trade on price when getting a new phone – their focus is on a particular brand and model of handset. Helio, by starting with a clean slate, attracts customers with a total package of network and
We hear that social networking sensation Facebook is considering the launch of a branded mobile phone service. A good idea? We think so – do it properly, and they’ll clean up. handset offerings, and so seems to be creating a usefully different mindset in its customers. Where social networks such as MySpace and Facebook have a huge advantage over traditional or new-to-the-market operators is that they already have users’ permission to offer services based on their various circles of friends. Facebook is already a ‘presence aware’ address book where looking a person up also shows you their status at the same time. Additionally, its carefully-crafted ‘news feed’ provides ready-made ‘snacking’ content — particularly when it’s pushed to the handset screen without the need to start an application. Best of all for any Facebook phone, FB (unlike MySpace) is already an open platform, making it a snap for third parties to gain potentially profitable access to mobile users. And, as a mobile operator, Facebook would already be billing you, making paid-for services that much easier to buy. An MVNO offering with FB functionality built into exclusive handsets could be just the thing for the lucrative young adult demographic. So how best to go about it?
“Bring that freaky sickness over here.” 29
Facebook’s success can be seen as a perfect example of the strategy set out in management gurus Constantinos Markides’ and Paul Geroski’s thesis Fast Second, a strategy which, in a nutshell, involves letting other companies (‘colonisers’) develop and trial new ideas before coming in as a ‘consolidator’ at exactly the point that a dominant design emerges. This worked well for Facebook on the web, and the potential for mobile is awesome. Facebook just has to get the implementation perfect to repeat its ‘fast second’ success in the mobile space.
Top of our implementation checklist? Making calls and sending text messages are far and away the most popular uses for mobile phones. The third – using the phone as an alarm clock – is only a quarter as common. These functions have to be at least as good as the best on the market and, crucially, feel immediately familiar to customers. Speed of response is a key determinant of usability. The Facebook phone should hide the network as far as possible, synchronising in the background (like the successful BlackBerry) so that any operation feels instantaneous. Good though it is, even the response time of the web
site on a broadband-connected laptop would be a hindrance on a phone. Moreover, the phone needs to work just as well when out of network coverage (think of all those commuters reading about their friends and firing off messages while underground). The cost of using Facebook must be rolled into the bundle pricing for the service. People must be absolutely confident that unless they see a price next to an option there will be no more to pay. This is particularly important when you’ve hidden the network because you remove any notion of “being online”. Get these aspects right and it’s a slam dunk.
Sadly, we haven’t got a Facebook phone to play with. But what could it be like? Below, we look at some aspects of a potential interface, and we’ve put up a video on YouTube if you’d like to explore the concept further.
One of the big benefits of this Facebook phone is that it makes ‘snacking’ really quick and painless. A press of a spring loaded right key gives you the mini-feed. Let go of the key and it’ll spring right back - it’s a really neat way to have a quick look at what’s happening in your network.
You access your contacts in the usual way. Some of these are Facebook contacts; others just normal phone contacts. For the Facebook contacts, you can see a bit of their status which will expand if there’s more to show. Make a call to them and you immediately see their profile which gives you some context for the call - likewise, when you call another subscriber, they can see your profile too. Calling a normal contact, though, is much the same as you’d expect…
...The clever bit for Facebook, though, comes at the end of calls to these contacts not already within your network. The phone offers the chance to invite the person you’ve just called to Facebook. You can either do it with an SMS (by default) or with an email. It uses the email address in the phone’s contact directory if there’s one there, and - if not - you can just enter the recipient’s email yourself.
To see the full video of the Facebook phone concept in action, just search ‘LBiQ’ and ‘Facebook Phone’ on YouTube. Lorenzo Wood is a Principal at LBi
If you think that mobileâ€™s come a long way in the last few years, just wait till you see what the future holds.
Adventures in the Nearly-Now >> 31
Unusually for a man of his generation, Professor Stephen Heppell is a digital native. He’s been a pioneer of new technology adoption in the education sector since the 1980s and is currently an adviser to multiple governments. Most recently, in between lecturing, appearing on TV and consulting into various global organisations like UNICEF, he’s been leading the thinking on how best to engage with our current, alwaysconnected generation of students in order to improve the ways in which they learn. Taking time out from a busy life of red-carpet BAFTA awards ceremonies and ministerial canapés, he talks with LBi’s Stephen Barber about horizon-scanning, ‘inbetweenies’ and life in the ‘nearly-now’. A new time-space Stephen Barber: Ubiquitous, portable technology can act as the enabler for immersive experiences, both for the collective and the individual. But there’s also an ongoing debate amongst educators as to technology’s real value in empowering learners and how even the bestequipped teachers might be able to use it in meaningful ways at the moment. Do you think teachers are really ready to start using mobile devices for classroom-based learning? Stephen Heppell: It’s not going to be as hard as you might think, you know. Technology has already permeated our lives so much. If we’d been doing this interview in the 1950s then you’d have been sitting there with a reel-to-reel recorder and people would have gathered around to watch just because the technology would have been so interesting in itself. These days technology’s become a natural part of all our lives. Just look around this space – we’ve got laptops, digital cameras, and there’s even a digital SLR over there. That’s some very cool kit, and we’re just in an average Starbucks. Just like a lot of us, teachers are already using technology in their personal lives to do things like book cinema tickets, look at web cams and simply keep in touch with their friends and family. They’re definitely living in that world already, plus they’re trained and they already know about learning. Where this all gets really interesting though, and this is beyond just learning, is with
a group I call the ‘in-betweenies’. It’s a really useful concept based on the ‘tweening’ that animators use to generate fluid motion between frames. All the new stuff is happening in the ‘in-between’. Formerly, you had two sorts of time, the ‘now’ and the ‘not-now’, but these days people are living their lives in a new timespace – the ‘nearly-now’. So, I text you in the ‘nearly-now’ and I don’t expect you to respond immediately. When I do get your response, I’m in a meeting so I call you back when I’m finished. When I get to our meeting place you’ve already arrived, just as I was about to send you a text to find out where you were. This concept of the ‘nearly-now’ also turns out to be really interesting for learning because it’s a space that learning’s never really occupied before. Students learn in the ‘now’ because schools operate in those old spaces of the ‘now’ and ‘not-now’. And yet at the moment we’ve got a generation of learners who instinctively understand the ‘nearly now’ space and are comfortable within it. It’s a space that turns out to be more about portable, pocketable equipment than anything else. At the moment teachers are put in a box where from 9:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon, for example, they’re acting as a geographer and they’re teaching geography to a class of children all of the same age, all of whom are sitting in the same room learning at the same pace from the same textbook. That sounds to me like a 1970s Ford production line at Dagenham! Most of us will recognise more complex models of working from our professional lives; it’s just that there hasn’t been a more complex model applied to learning yet. SB: It’s a great way of looking at the freedom that mobile can bring to our lives. Obviously it’s one that goes far beyond teacher and pupil
interactions. How do you see the concept of the ‘nearly now’ working in a wider context? SH: Well, it’s also really liberating in terms of people’s social interactions. We know from a lot of our research that when people exist in this ‘nearly-now’ space it’s less adversarial – they’re less likely to argue about stuff. People may rant in blogs but that’s a different thing. In the ‘nearly now’, people are much more likely to retract, research, re-present and reflect. There’s a huge amount of value being created in these spaces between people. If we come together socially through Facebook, eBay, Google or whatever, then real value is created and there are a lot of opportunities for types of advertising that understand how these spaces works. It’s just that at the moment no public services are operating there. The nature of the ‘nearly now’ is also having an impact in many other areas of people’s lives across the world. Just look at Kenya where farmers are now using mobile technology to explore the different prices they might get for their crops from a variety of buyers. In the past, their only option was to go to their local buyer which often meant that they were living in poverty while the buyer did alright from it. Now they’re able to say, “Well, this doesn’t do it for me, and the guys down the road are offering me more.” The immediacy has been taken out of it with really positive effects. Mobile disruption SB: So, does what we’re seeing in these examples demonstrate a need to design mobile hardware and interfaces that understand and reflect the way that they’re being used in these new contexts? SH: Well, let’s take learning as an example
“First of all, you’ve got to properly embrace what’s wrong with any present system.” © LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
“Personalisation should recognise that people are part of communities.” again. First of all, you’ve got to properly embrace what’s wrong with any current system. For learning, that’s the need for textbooks, the weight of the school bag and all the rest of it. The problem is that textbooks are out of date and students can’t follow the threads they want to follow because that would put them out of synch with the book. It’s essential to think about how traditional activities and information ought to be properly re-presented for the screens of more personal devices. I’m forever being phoned up by textbook publishers who say things like, “Right, we get it now. We want to put our textbooks on mobile phones!” I just have to say “No, you really don’t get it, do you? Call me in a decade…” SB: A lot of this comes down to what exactly a ‘phone’ or any other mobile device thinks it is. Or rather, what the user thinks it is… SH: Exactly. It’s probably more useful, actually, to think for a moment about what a phone isn’t. The key thing to note is that a phone isn’t a standalone computer, which is something that we’ve known for a long time. Services like Shazam – which allows you to play a song down the phone, then identifies it and allows you to buy it – show that you’ve got all the heavy duty computer processing power you might ever need sitting quite separately at a remove from the handset itself. It’s easy, for example, to imagine something similar to Shazam’s service in a retail environment. You’d walk into a store, take a picture of something you’re interested in and then, straight back through your phone would come a list of other products that you might be interested in and the places where you could find them at the cheapest price.
SB: So in much the same way that retail customers in Japan are able to access information about products by using their phones to scan QR codes? SH: Yes, which is easier because the handset software handles that itself. But it’s also perfectly reasonable to assume that I should be able to point my phone at anyone in this room and get back their name and some information about them through a wider connected system outside of the device itself. In fact, thinking like this, you might go a step further and wonder why we have cameras in phone handsets in the first place. Wouldn’t they work better if they were built into connected earpieces which are head-mounted in line with our eyes? Then we could see what we were looking at without the need to point a separate device at it. SB: Some people might see functionality along those lines as contributing to a pretty dystopian vision of the future. That example of looking at someone and your phone being able to connect you to wider information about them is the kind of thing that I imagine people could be fairly scared by. After all, this is England where people are already under constant surveillance in most places… SH: As William Gibson said, “The street will find a way…” But you’re right. Sure, when my phone tells me that I’m looking at you it might also say, “And this is where Stephen shops, and when he’s there he buys this, that and the other.” It could even be all over me with adverts based on this kind of information. But personally I’m confident that we’ll be able to make this kind of thing work without it being unnecessarily intrusive – just
as people have easily found ways of avoiding adverts in other media. In terms of how a mobile device might be able to deliver against scenarios like this, I think that a lot of us have taken our eyes off the ball of heavy-duty computer processing power. You think your desktop computer has come a long way? Well, you should see what mainframe computers are capable of these days. Mainframes are seriously smart, they really are. Many of them might still be the size of a small planet with an energy drain to rival that of Coventry, but all of that power can go straight into your phone. That’s when things start getting really cute. Think about something like health. 85% of the kids that die around the world die from ignorance not from disease. We could cure what they die of, but at the moment health hasn’t got a proper dissemination channel for this. The phone is a fabulous device for this kind of thing – even down to being a halfdecent data sensor. If I point my phone at a rash on my arm and take a picture of it, I ought to be able to send that picture to a service that could identify it and give me advice, reassurance and even help right there and then. SB: With a handset as the conduit to this kind of external processing power, do you see the form factor and design of devices affecting the way that they can be used? SH: Well, getting the right size is incredibly important. My definition of a ‘small enough’ computer is one that you can get out and use effectively on public transport. For me, the screen on something like the iPod Touch is only about half the size it needs to be. It should be more like something the size of the Nintendo DS, with a split screen. That said, the form factor of smaller devices seems to have attracted a whole new audience for this kind of technology – just look at the success of the iPhone. Personally, I think it’s actually quite a bad phone because Americans use phones differently to those of us in Europe. It’s terrible at picture messaging, for example. Then again, I don’t know anyone who claims to love their desktop... I knew a few people who love their laptops, but everyone who’s got one seems to love their iPhone. Personally, if we’re all going to be moving towards smaller devices, then I’d want something more like ‘smart glasses’.
“They won’t be able to ban your eyes.” >>
Building shared experiences SB: I’d agree that the applications of connected services are incredibly promising, but even with the three devices I regularly carry around with me, I still find myself just passively reading or watching when I’m out and about. I know I’ve got the ability to create stuff, share opinions with friends and generally contribute more, but although the will is there it can be hard to actually do it. SH: One of the confusions of course is with the social dimension, the sense of community itself. It’s actually quite hard to send a group text or message, so you end up sending and receiving messages in countless different ways. Phones, Facebook, email – we all know what it’s like. People belong to different personal and professional groups and at the moment the phone doesn’t do a particularly good job of managing these overlapping communities. I’ve been doing some horizon scanning for the government to explore different visions of what the future might look like. There are some lovely visions, and all of these are about personal, wearable devices that connect individuals to a wider community. It’s important to recognise that personalisation isn’t about individualisation – personalisation should recognise that people are part of wider communities, whether that’s friends, family, colleagues or whatever. For me, the key terms around this kind of personalised community are ‘annotation’, ‘narration’ and ‘threading’. When people watch a movie, they want to say things about it like, “Did you see the wrist watches that those three Trojans were wearing?” They want to annotate it. Alternatively, they may want to create a narrative or to build threads. For example, a thread to teach someone about
camera angles by referencing a number of different films. The question is what devices are we going to use for this narrative annotation and threading? I don’t see anyone sitting in a cinema with their laptop out, but I do see people sitting there with their phones. If you were to take a picture of a movie, your phone should be able to work out your context and you’d be able to annotate your experience just by creating some text. Then, if your friends are at the cinema watching the same film at another time, they could receive your text message and picture at just the right moment in the film… SB: …Straight after security arrive to escort you off the premises… SH: Ah, but they won’t! It’s very personal stuff. If you had your laptop or a video recorder out then you’d obviously be a goner, but your phone is a different matter. To give you another idea of how things are going to be moving in this kind of direction, I’ve just been doing a design specification for the London 2012 Olympic Media Centre. The approach I’m taking is to try to get them to look back four years and to identify the things that we’ve got now but that we didn’t have back then. For example, we didn’t have photo-blogging, we didn’t have time-shifting, we didn’t have all kinds of things. Go forwards four years, think about all the innovation that’s going to happen before we get there and then square it. Seriously. For example, if I’m at the Olympics and I’m interested in watching something like the kayaking – which never gets covered – I might wait for a friend to go and watch an event, and two of my other kayaking mates might be stood by the water with him. All
of them could be streaming this live to their blogs through their phones. What does that do for the whole communications model of the Olympics? SB: Well, it’s not just the communications model that’s going to be disrupted is it? There’s also the economic model to consider… SH: Exactly. We’re currently in a place where all that information can be provided by a single company, which means that those companies can charge consumers a whole lot for it. It’s not going to be that way four years from now. And even if people start banning phones at events like this, they won’t ban earpieces, which should have cameras in them by then. And if they ban earpieces, they won’t be able to ban your eyes – so you just need to be wearing smart contact lenses. They’re not going to take your eyes out. So there goes Premier League football too… Just think, what’s going to happen when everyone in Emirates Stadium is broadcasting the match through their contact lenses? Who’s going to be paying the footballers’ wages then?
SH: Well, unfortunately that particular initiative has been dominated by a lot of egos. I was on the platform with Negroponte at UNESCO when he announced it and the people representing the developing nations in the audience didn’t immediately warm to the idea. There was a certain amount of distrust rather than an affirmation. And it’s not that surprising – the way that we treat the Third World can be genuinely appalling. For example, as a professor, I write papers and chapters that I give freely to the research journals. They then sell these articles to readers so that the only way anyone can see them is if they subscribe to that journal. If you’re poor, even relatively poor, then you won’t be able to access that research. So it’s a situation where I write and develop my knowledge with public money, I give it away for free, and then – if you happen to be in Kenya or somewhere like that – you can’t access it unless you pay money. It’s outrageous.
I had a very interesting conversation with someone in China. I was browsing in a bookshop full of ripped-off books and, with a slight smile on my face, I asked the guy in charge how he might square this with the owner of the copyright. He gave me a big grin and said: “Well, the way we see it is that we invented paper and we don’t get a penny for that, so I don’t see why the guys that do the ink should get anything.” And to a certain extent he’s right. I mean, the model is hugely rigged in favour of western interests – those of the US in particular. SB: When do you think we’re going to start seeing the benefits of some of the things that we’ve been talking about today? There are still a lot of barriers in the way. For example, the government of Pakistan recently banned YouTube because they didn’t like some of the content that their citizens could find there. That kind of legislation can only stand in the way of progress.
SH: Well, what you need to remember is that YouTube may be relatively new, but at heart it’s very much a 20th century construction, just like Wikipedia, which is full of faults and I don’t understand why people are all over it. These aren’t really what I think of as 21st century services. We’re not in a century of building big things that do things for everyone – we’re in a century of helping people to help each other. So of course, YouTube doesn’t seem right for Pakistan because it’s not right for Pakistan. But many Pakistani video contribution sites, when gathered together, might be quite interesting because you’d be able to pick and choose from the ones you wanted and avoid the ones that were going to cause problems. You’re back in that ‘in-between’ world in the space between individuals and corporations where communities exist. And communities turn out to be the most important in-between of all.
Learning and the developing world SB: That brings us conveniently onto one important thing that we haven’t talked about yet – the cost of technology and services to the end user. It’s all very well us sitting here in a London branch of Starbucks discussing things as privileged westerners, but how do you make this stuff available to the developing world? I don’t just mean the technology, but the actual service provision as well. Do you have an opinion on initiatives such as Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘One Laptop per Child’ project?
LBiQ sat down with him for breakfast to discuss industry change and how new trends in online social behaviour are helping to highlight ever-richer opportunities for advertising supported mobile experiences.
With the content distribution dominance of the operator portals looking shot to pieces, the mobile gaming industry stands on the verge of even more phenomenal growth. Branded mobile gaming opportunities suddenly seem more attractive than ever, but how best to go about it?
In LBiQ 1.1, we looked at the success of the online gaming sector in general. Now, as Juniper Research tips the value of the global mobile games market to rise to € 5.7 billion by the end of next year, it seems appropriate to take a more detailed look at this particular segment of the gaming market. After all, it’s a market which generates more mobile revenue in the UK than music, video and wallpaper content combined.
The mobile gaming market has been dominated since its inception by the mobile network operators. Around 90% of games sold via handsets last year were through their portals (or ‘decks’) and this has resulted in a scenario where only a handful of games can easily gain mass distribution. But now, as users become more familiar with the mobile web and data tariffs come down, a more open model of direct-to-consumer distribution is opening up with benefits not just for
developers and publishers but also for brands considering advergaming opportunities. Kristian Segerstråle was managing director of Glu Mobile – one of the world’s leading mobile games publishers – until August 2007 when he left to found social gaming venture Playfish. The first game to come out of Playfish, the Facebook-based Who Has The Biggest Brain? is currently in the social network’s top twenty applications worldwide in terms of daily players.
LBiQ: So how do you see the current state of play around distribution models for mobile gaming? I’ve heard you talk before and I know you’re a big believer in the opportunities available to games developers once users realise there’s more to the mobile web than simply operator portal decks.
KS: At the moment the mobile games market, like the mobile content market as a whole, is mimicking the way that the market for video games works across traditional, physical retail channels. You create a product, you ship this as a deployment to the retailers – in this case the network operators – and they then promote and launch it with slots and advertising spots on their portals. We may think of it as a digital business but, conceptually, it’s similar to the way that things work in the real world. Right now, we’re seeing the mobile internet follow very much the same pattern
that the web did a decade ago. Users are realising that there’s more to browsing on their phones than just the operator portals. Device and interface technologies are improving, the cost of browsing is more affordable and there’s starting to be more content out there. For games publishers who don’t have the deals to make it onto the portals, the last few years haven’t always been easy; you’ve had high customer acquisition costs because you’ve been trying to attract customers without advertising on the operator decks, and you’ve had the cost of processing mobile
“It’s like having a Wal-Mart and saying only a quarter of people can shop there.” 37
payments for downloads. Now, with more affordable access and m-payment services like Google Checkout and PayPal, developers and publishers aren’t just seeing a much wider market for their products, it’s also becoming a much cheaper business for them to operate in. Then you’ve got the impact of Apple’s iPhone and the level of expectation it’s driving around what users should expect from a mobile internet device. In particular, there’s the iPhone’s Wi-Fi capability. With Wi-Fi you can’t get onto an operator portal if you want to. I was speaking at the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco last week and I asked the guys in the session which of them had an iPhone and how many of them had ever visited their operator’s portal. Out of 200 people, 20 or 30 were Apple owners and none of them had. It’s statistically insignificant of course, but nevertheless, for the operators, if Wi-Fi becomes an expected standard on devices then they’re locking out potential customers. It’s like having a Wal-Mart and saying only a quarter of the population can shop there.
LBiQ: So there’s obviously opportunity for a more open retail model. Aggregators such as Amazon and Play.com are going to be able to get in there. How about Apple? Could you see them going for a vertical play in the mobile games market in the same way that they’ve so successfully approached music and video content? KS: There’s certainly a big opportunity for Apple, and they have the infrastructure to do this kind of thing successfully, but whatever the platform – from the desktop to the iPod – Apple has always had a bit of a complicated relationship with games; they’re primarily about other types of media, even though they haven’t always been the best friend of media owners. Much more interesting is what Nokia are doing with their N-Gage handsets and services – it’s a vertical like Apple but entirely focused on games. And importantly, Nokia has infinitely more handsets than Apple out there and they’re a much more mass market brand for mobile. They’re also looking at building community around
their N-Gage gaming handsets, and community’s where things start to get interesting. The question this starts to prompts is whether you should see games as a product or a service. I think that as the mobile market starts to converge with the internet games market, the really interesting thing will be whether it’s individual product retail models that win out, or whether we’re going to see more servicebased models where users pay with attention and money to be part of a games community and play games with friends. LBiQ: So, given a more open retail download environment outside the walled gardens of the operator portals, how do you view the opportunities for brands looking to take advantage of the boom in mobile gaming? What’s going to be more valid for a brand advertiser – creating games themselves or just looking to own or ‘curate’ download portals, much as we’ve seen happen with music and video content online?
KS: I think there are huge opportunities, but I also think that it’s a minefield. For example, there are the free download portals where brands can place ad-supported games, but often these portals don’t attract the top tier developers. And because these developers don’t have the time or money to ensure that their games are correctly ported to play on all the different models of handsets, you get a lot of failed downloads. If you’re thinking about branded games then it’s vital you consider the user experience you want to be associated with. Worse still, mobile might be all about keeping in touch, but if you’re associated with a bad download experience there’s no immediate back channel for your consumers to let you know about it. In terms of experience and a back channel to report on it, I tend to look at our ‘Who Has the Biggest Brain’ application on Facebook where we’re getting well over 1.5 million game-play minutes a day. It’s growing by about 20-30% a week and all of these gameplay minutes are entirely based on people recommending the experience to their friends. At the moment, looking at gaming across social networks or at mobile games which can be tied to online social activity may turn out to be a far better way of ensuring that your branded games are associated with positive experiences. As a brand owner, you can associate yourself with something that already has a social element and listen directly to consumers without needing to run groups or panels on how successful or not your activity might actually be.
LBiQ: So perhaps it’s a valid route to look to develop co-branded mobile gaming experiences that are complementary to popular online games that already have their own communities? It’s something I’ve been talking to people about for a while – the kind of model where you’d take a World of Warcraft, for example, then have a partner branded mobile application where you could train up your character offline through exercises. Perhaps even mental exercises like on your ‘Biggest Brain’… KS: I bet you – launch a mobile application for a WoW or a Biggest Brain and you’ll find it being discussed on the community sites almost immediately. “I can’t believe Brand X, Y or Z is associated with this,” that kind of thing. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s going to be that immediate. You’ll know what’s working and what isn’t and be able to reassess what you’re trying to achieve in real time. It’s back to that distinction between a service model of gaming and a retail one – I don’t really see the retail model working in combination with advertising, but the service model seems to be much more suitable for that kind of thing. In terms of the communities around gaming, competition is one thing, but remember – in many types of games, whether it’s a board game or new games such as Rock Band or SingStar, it’s not about who wins. It’s all about how you play and the ways that you can express yourself as part of that game. Mobile has the potential to augment these communities of expression.
LBiQ: Isn’t there an inherent problem with cut-through when we talk about advertising within any properly immersive experience such as gaming or social networking? As we’re all aware, SNS can be one of the worst environments to advertise in from an effectiveness perspective. KS: What we’re finding with ‘Biggest Brain’ is that in an immersive online game where it’s more of a captive audience, the user experience is closer to being immersed in TV than it is to browsing the web. Banners will get blanked out, but things such as product placement and rich media overlays can be incredibly memorable in that kind of setting. If you look at those online and social games that are already popular and where there’s a valid proposition for a brand, developing a mobile angle to be associated with makes obvious sense. It’s probably best not to think of mobile gaming as separate from wider gaming and community experiences across other channels. The beauty of games is that they lend themselves to developing interesting, portable experiences around them. Taking an already popular gaming experience and extending this into a new channel ensures you have an already receptive audience and a back channel to know whether your investment is working for you. It’s a market that’s continually evolving and it’s going to get more exciting still this year. LBiQ: Thank you.
“There are huge opportunities, but it’s also a minefield.” 39
“A fragrance for the sophisticated luxury mobile phone user? Smells like bullshit to me.” Luxury Calling As the market for luxury phones evolves, LBiQ surveys the surreal landscape of the world’s most expensive handsets and those who buy them. It’s a midweek lunchtime on the ground floor of London’s Selfridges, home to one of the two London concessions of upmarket mobile brand Vertu. Elsewhere it’s busy, but the serene, low glass-cased presentation of the Nokia-owned luxury mobile brand’s ‘instruments’ is reflected in the vacuum of customers around the counters. Most of the bustle here – in and around the store’s luxurythemed ‘Wonder Room’ – is directed towards
the glitter of more traditional watch and jewellery brands: Breitling and Bulgari; Rolex and Tiffany. Pausing briefly, two schoolgirls roll their eyes at the entry-level Constellation handset. “Ohmigod! £4,000 for a phone?” A pair of black suited sales assistants shows no interest in engaging with an answer. Quite simply, if you have to ask, then Vertu isn’t
really interested in you. But then again, what kind of person is Vertu interested in, exactly? This is, after all, a brand that – behind its bejewelled and 24 carat plated façade – offers little of the high-spec technical functionality we’ve come to associate with 21st century phones. Vertu’s first 3G model only came out last year and, while the Signature Diamond models flaunt (but oh, so discreetly!) ‘rose gold pink sapphires’, you won’t be a getting a camera or a network connection in return for your carsized investment. I first came across Vertu in the autumn of 2003, pitching to develop a suitably luxurious online experience for the brand.
In 2003, of course, ‘luxury online’ (in a trend that worryingly continues today) meant Flash transitions, a black background and copy telling stories of heritage and craftsmanship. Unfortunately, however, my company’s shade of luxury black experience – although markedly similar to that which finally launched – apparently lacked the requisite sparkle. Still, my interest stuck. Vertu was launched as an independently managed but wholly owned subsidiary of Nokia in 2002. Promoting values of traditional craftsmanship, and boasting product design by Frank Nuovo (Nokia’s widely respected head of design) their mobiles
LBiQ’s ‘Dali’ handset - part of our long-awaited Emperor’s New Wardrobe collection – launches this summer in St. Petersburg and Dubai.
were unique. Vertu handsets, with their sapphire screens, ruby bearings supporting the key pads, diamond trimming and singlebutton summoning of a dedicated concierge service, were the first to target a mobile phone offering at the luxury market. It’s a niche that Vertu created, exploited and has successfully owned from its inception. It’s all been going well. According to CEO Alberto Torres, Vertu’s sales were up nearly 100% last year. By volume, these sales are now approaching 100,000 a year and, considering the pricing model in play, this all adds up to make Vertu one of Nokia’s most profitable segments. Last spring, however, as the world’s watch and jewellery makers descended on the Swiss town of Basel for the annual Baselworld trade show, it was clear that this niche was under attack from two separate types of competitor. In the platinum corner, fighting explicitly for the new wealth of developing markets, posed brands such as Goldvish, Gresso and Mobiado. These are brands that – unless you subscribe to the likes of Arabian Lady magazine (truly fine company for LBiQ to be keeping) – it’s unlikely you’ll ever have heard of. In the other, aiming for quality of experience as much as external glitz and glamour, stood the ‘fashion phones’ of familiar luxury brands such as Prada and Armani. Followers of the evolution of luxury brands will be aware of the four distinct cycles that luxury markets follow as they develop in tandem with local economies and consumer mindsets. The first three of these cycles, ‘Acquisitive Luxury’, ‘Inquisitive Luxury’ and ‘Authoritative Luxury’ are defined by an obsessive concentration on the nature of the product itself: its flamboyance; the craft and heritage of its workmanship; the most exclusive, rare and limited of editions. The fourth stage of ‘Meditative Luxury’, when the concept of luxury moves away from simple product to all-encompassing experience, is where the developed economies of Europe and North America are starting to find themselves. The world’s developing markets, however, are still moving through these first three cycles. It’s no surprise that one of these markets, Russia – where the value of the rapidly growing luxury goods market is forecast to reach $US 9 billion this year – is the explicit target of Basel’s platinum contenders.
Ostentatiously heading the charge for ‘Acquisitive Luxury’ comes Geneva-based Goldvish, with a design aesthetic that favours the work of clumsy Fabergé-forgers over that of Apple’s rightly-praised Jonathan Ive. The highlight of the brand’s Baselworld exhibit, a solid gold, diamond-studded handset, was created in a luxuriously limited edition of three and flashes a level of bling that would bring a blush to even the most excessive of Snoop Dogg’s onstage pimp posse. It’s price tag? €1 million. Equally astonishing is Gresso, dangling not just handsets but luxury USB sticks and a €3,000 1GB MP3 player in front of a new breed of arriviste oligarchs. Like their phones, Gresso’s MP3 player is crafted in gold and rare African Blackwood, a wood that’s at the heart of Gresso’s textbook ‘Inquisitive Luxury’ proposition: “The history of phone began 200 years ago. So old is the wood the phone is made of. Every mobile phone is unique and singular. Two identical phones do not exist, as well as in the nature there are no two identical trees” (sic). Poor English and an equally poor understanding of chronology aside (the first patent for a telephony device was filed only 137 years ago in 1871) Gresso’s handsets, particularly the ‘intellectual’ Avantgarde model are definitely good-looking. They avoid the Goldvish overtones of downmarket lotterywinner chic, and – unlike the Vertu models which in the main restrict themselves to basic call and text functionality – boast a full range of modern smart-phone applications. The question you have to ask yourself, however, is whether this statement of personal triumph over the everyday and ubiquitous could ever be worth an entry-level price of €9,000 (rising to €30,000 for the limited edition Avantgarde Black Diamond)? Most bizarre of all is Mobidao. This Vancouver-based brand is one whose level of precise concentration on one particular sociodemographic niche can only be described as, well, military. Their flagship product for the Russian market is the Mobiado ‘Stealth’. Each of these handsets comes encased in ‘aircraft aluminium’ and bears the brand’s logo. And what a logo it is. Resembling a spikier version of Peugeot’s Lion, the ‘Carinthian Panther’ is at once both a heraldic device purloined from
12th century Slovakia and a popular symbol in the iconography of Eastern Europe’s fascist skinhead movement. The entire limited edition package couldn’t scream “ex-warlord made good” any louder unless it also offered an instant money-laundering and plastic surgery option. Instead of this there’s a more prosaic but equally appropriate piece of one-upmanship on Vertu: rather than a concierge service, Mobiado offers direct access to Blue Star Jets, the world’s largest private jet brokerage. Then there’s the surreal case of the brand’s 2006 launch of its own perfume, a joint venture with “Bissol, manufacturer of luxury perfumes”. Styling itself the “the first fragrance designed specifically for the sophisticated luxury mobile phone user”, the venture has whiff of bullshit or at least impressively knowing self-parody about it. A simple online diagnostic suggests that the ‘House of Bissol’ doesn’t exist beyond a website hosted on the same server as Mobiado.com. This sits uncomfortably with a brand distributed in the UK through ultra upmarket Sloane Square retailer Bamford & Sons, but such is the strange world of the Russian rich and their jewelencrusted journey through the first three cycles of luxury brand development. In more mature markets of much of Europe, the US and Japan, a different phase of the cycle has been reached – one that (hopefully, in LBiQ’s opinion) shows the way in which the ‘luxury’ end of the mobile market is likely to develop. And it’s all down to one brand: Apple. Apple’s products of recent years – culminating in the iPhone – demonstrate much of what it means to be a luxury technology brand in the 21st century. A world where even leaders in traditional luxury fields such as Bottega’s head designer Thomas Meier can recognise that “the real value (of luxury) is in design integrity and the value of the service that surrounds it.” With their own stores, and a clear ownership of the traditional luxury values of design heritage, craft and authenticity in the technology space, Apple’s concept of an experiential luxury – promoted so successfully by the iPhone – is one that focuses on the phone as an elegant enabler as much as an identifier of a particular lifestyle. It’s visually
attractive (and, importantly, ‘feels’ good as well as simply looking good) but, however much it’s clearly designed to be shown off, the iPhone never aspires to being jewellery; rather it recognises that it’s simply an accessory to an individual lifestyle. What’s more, the lifestyle services provided through Apple’s content ecosystem (and make no mistake, portable, easy to use always-on internet is about as ‘lifestyle’ as it gets these days) are recognised by sophisticated consumers as being more important and valuable than any outward ostentation could ever be. Fast in the footsteps of Apple, recognising that design integrity matched with quality of experience is the key indicator of luxury in this sector, other high-end brands have attempted similar approaches and produced handsets at a clearly premium
the inquisitive and acquisitive, Vertu is no longer the only viable mobile option. Such consumers are also able to ignore the conventional designs of the LG and Samsung partnerships behind Prada and Armani and to look instead at the truly beautiful handsets of Bang & Olufsen and Japan’s Amadana. It’s into this design-oriented segment of the luxury phone market that yet another player – watchmaker TAG Heuer – is about to make its debut. Set for launch in the second half of 2008, and with what LBiQ understands to be a likely price tag of around €3,000 (placing it as a convenient halfway house between Vertu and the fashion phones), the handset is interesting in the sector in that it looks like uniquely playing to a brand heritage in chronometry. This is rumoured to be delivered through an innovative, angled design which allows the user to see the time
customise it. Ever since the media reported on P. Diddy acquiring a diamond customised iPod back in 2004, a high-end customisation market has sprung up around Apple devices with companies offering any crystal, gold or diamond extravagance you can imagine. This now of course includes the iPhone. This trend towards the combining of best-in-class mobile usability and experience with a conveniently sleek casing, well suited for extravagant expressions of affluent individuality, possibly signals the end of a brief but successful run for the other luxury players. Unless these brands invest as much in their insides as well as their outsides then – certainly within the UK and the US – their days seem numbered. In the brief meantime, however, the most extravagant end of the market still has furlined Russian pockets to take advantage of,
“Rather than becoming heirlooms, these handsets will simply become antiques with no practical purpose.” pricing of €400-€650. These aim to stand above the crowd as much through innovative features as through simple price and presence of a designer label. The ‘diffusion line’ phones of both Armani and Prada, for example, mimic (to, respectively, a lesser and infinitely worse degree) the touch-screen interface of the iPhone. Armani’s Samsung-built handset even goes beyond Apple to offer touch-responsive haptic feedback to simulate a keypad. Both Armani and Prada also, like Apple, recognise in their pricing strategies that technology trends move faster than those of jewellery: keeping up with the latest iPhone over the next few years is likely to cost almost the same as a one-off entry level Vertu or Mobiado purchase. Functionality and experience aside, even the Frank Nuovo design styling of Vertu is under threat. For those wealthy aficionados with a mature love of design that transcends
on the top of the phone without removing it from his or (much less likely) her pocket. Whether this makes up for a lack of contemporary connectivity and features remains to be seen: where a Goldvish, a Vertu or even a TAG Heuer may be intrinsically valuable enough to be handed down through generations like a Patek Philippe watch, these days luxury through functionality (such as excellence in timekeeping) is ephemeral. As such, rather than ever becoming heirlooms, such legacy handsets will be simply antique and offer no practical value to a younger generation. Of course, however great the ‘true’ luxury to be experienced through feel and function rather than simply glamour and show, there will always be a need among those who can afford it to demonstrate that their superior wealth. So, if you’re among this number, how do you go about improving on your new iPhone? Well, quite simply, you
and Vertu continues to open stores apace in Saudi Arabia, a shift in market focus that began in 2005. Trends move fast and, as so often seems the case, the speed of all things mobile in particular can seem dizzying. It’s cold and wet outside Selfridges, but not far across Bloomsbury to the British Museum. Here, the quiet, upstairs Clocks and Watches gallery seems boisterous in comparison to the Vertu concession. Here, though, despite a similar presentation of exhibits under glass, these pieces aren’t here to be marvelled at for simple beauty, or even for their level of craftsmanship. Rather, the pieces on display have been selected to reflect their representation of technology’s peak at their time of creation. It’s advances in ability and not those in ostentation that mark the true progress of society. In comparison, the Vertu proposition doesn’t just seem simply dated – it seems forgettable.
That’s Lobstertainment As Beijing prepares for the first ‘long tail Olympics’, LBiQ looks at the mobile technology dream that just won’t die – mobile broadcast TV.
“A friend called me up the other day and talked about investing in a dot-com that sells lobsters. Internet lobsters. Where will this end? How low can you stoop?” For a man arguably better known in recent years for his roles in reality TV than for his business acumen, property billionaire Donald Trump was on the money when it came to the blind excesses of the digital boom and bust that ushered in the 21st century. Appropriately, another lobster plays a part in the story of what could easily turn, like the dot-com bubble, into a dream of wealth shattered on the rocks of what users really want. It’s the dream of mobile broadcast TV. In October 2006, supported by a high profile advertising campaign featuring Pamela Anderson, Virgin launched their ‘Lobster’ branded TV handset in the UK. Offering five live channels, the curiously shaped device failed to attract enough customers and the service was abandoned in January 2007. So why did Virgin cool on the Lobster? The most likely reason lies in the oftenconfusing world of mobile standards and technologies. Lobster was powered by BT’s Movio service which utilised the Digital
Audio Broadcast network to re-broadcast TV content. DAB however is just one of the many options available for delivering these services – others include simple web streaming of content over 3G, the TDtv technology currently being trialled by two UK operators and the increasingly popular DVB-H standard. DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcast for Handhelds) is the standard for mobile TV supported by the European Commission. It’s also popular in both North America and parts of Asia. In the face of this growing acceptance of a single dominant standard it seems that BT Movio found itself with a platform unable to gain sufficient operator and manufacturer buy-in to make the service viable. Among handset brands, Nokia, for example, favours DVB-H and its new N96 phone comes with a receiver built in. Ultimately, though, the reason for the failure of the Lobster and why none of us are sitting around watching live broadcast TV on our mobiles (as Pamela did poolside with Coronation Street in the €3.25 million campaign that launched the service) is that people just don’t seem to want broadcast mobile TV services. Only 15% of users watch
streaming TV programming through their PCs and, when it comes to mobile, only 4% have chosen to watch so far. Nevertheless, Lobster’s consignment to the pot and the general public apathy around such services (even in the most advanced global market, South Korea, only 10% of the population uses TV-enabled handsets) doesn’t seem to be slowing the tempo of the industry’s dreaming. Research points to a global market expected to be worth €20 billion by 2011. Meanwhile, network operators around the world are continuing ongoing 3G services for users who, they believe, will ‘snack’ on sports and news content on the move. 2008, however, brings a key event for mobile broadcast TV. In a highly-publicised speech on the future of television in January last year, Bill Gates described events such as the US elections and the Olympics where the volume of content available highlighted the need for a more ‘long tail’ model of provision. It’s something China, where the leading mobile operator China Mobile is adding a reported 6 million customers a month, is taking seriously for the Beijing Games in August. Since the end of last year, China Mobile has been promoting the slogan “Olympics in
Your Pocket!” This promise is accompanied by plans for the launch of a nationwide next generation HSPA mobile broadband network suitable for mobile TV broadcasting as well as delivering a raft of other video services for journalists and the media as well as fans. All this in a country which has nearly 320 million mobile customers in a market of some half billion, and of which China Mobile’s CEO Wang Jianzhou (a man so bullish he possibly sleeps in a labyrinth guarded by terracotta call-centre staff) recently stated: “If someone doesn’t have a mobile phone they will lack basic functions of what it is to be human.” Even outside of China, in the Netherlands, mobile Telco KPN is planning to launch a DVB-H service to capitalise on global interest in the Games. It’s a big deal for the industry, perceived as a watershed moment – much as the Coronation of 1953 was for the original TV market in the UK. But could the holy grail of delivering broadcast mobile TV be a red herring (or a lobster, if you will) when it comes to TV content on the move? After all, isn’t live broadcast TV in
the time-shifted era of video on demand, TiVo, YouTube, Hulu, the BBC’s iPlayer et al. a little beside the point? Live TV is still seen by users wanting control of what they watch as providing a “57 channels and nothing on” experience. It’s surely personally planned, on-demand services able to access a long tail of content that Bill Gates had in mind when he talked to a future that would make today’s TV seem laughable. Likewise, anyone who’s experienced the current Wi-Fi experience of on-demand viewing through the BBC’s iPlayer on Apple’s iPhone will see little need right now for a new mobile TV standard. Combine television programming on demand through free wireless with the ability to ‘sideload’ programming onto devices through desktop-based services such as iTunes, and it seems that – at least for those who want it – a working version of mobile TV is already almost here.
One other important thing about Wi-Fi: it’s often freely available to the end user. This is a scenario which, if extended, has profound implications for the current models of mobile network operators; and one of these is around supporting the build-out costs of next generation mobile TV networks on standards such as DVB-H. Content consumption, as with Lobster, still looks as if it will be inevitably tied to subscription models in order to support the service. When on demand content can be consumed for free, and when users are already typically paying for their TV once, the live broadcast model looks like one destined to remain predominantly in the pockets of gadget-freaks and internet media consultants for the next few years. Look out for it at dinner parties over the lobster bisque, but don’t expect to see it on the bus.
“Pamela Anderson, watching Coronation Street poolside.”
Beijing 2008 may be the first ‘long tail’ broadcast Olympics, but it’s still unlikely that China will show the whole picture.
Guernica in Harajuku 46
ÂŠ LBiQ 2008. LBi Ltd is registered in England and Wales, the registered number and address are 03080409, 1 Naoroji Street, London, UK WC1X 0JD. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of this material is strictly forbidden.
Consider a society that achieves global supremacy in the development and usage of a new technology, only for its people to decide that life was better the way it was: simpler; more spiritual; and considerably more fulfilling. It seems like a fantasy, but 500 years ago this happened. And it happened in Japan.
Introduced by Portuguese traders to the art of gun making in the 16th Century, the Japanese rose to supremacy in the field. Their craftsmen designed and built the world’s finest firearms both for their own use (in a series of bloody and ongoing civil wars) and for the lucrative export market. Then, towards the end of the century – not quite overnight, but certainly suddenly – Japan turned its back on the gun. Where were the skill, honour and craft found in the traditional way of the sword, now that a peasant or a child could kill even the most noble and highly skilled samurai from a cowardly distance? So, until the mid-19th Century, the Japanese ‘reset’ a technology that seemed damaging to their society, values and culture as a whole. Now consider Japan today, a society where (as we discuss with Yuki Wada of Excite Japan on page 28) the mobile phone is all-pervasive and has taken on an ever-increasing number of functions in its dependent users’ lives. Take Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, the world’s busiest, where around 3.5 million commuters a day pass through – almost all entirely fixated on their handsets (or keitai) for the length of their journey.
So intense is the public relationship between human and keitai that an observer would be forgiven for thinking that devices had dominion over man. The balance seems wrong, the users less than men, and – unsurprisingly – a growing number of Tokyo’s residents see their traditions and culture as being dealt another blow every time another ring-tone breaks the solitude in the grounds of the Meiji Jingu, Shinjuku’s largest Shinto shrine. What is surprising, however, is that this reaction is coming not from Tokyo’s older generation, but from its youth. We’re told the story of Japan’s strange affair with the gun by Miyabi, a 19-year-old part-time English student and full-time follower (with piercings to prove it) of contemporary gothic fashion. This is, after all, Harajuku – where Tokyo’s extreme youth subcultures come out to play: to flirt; to dance; and, like all extreme youth subcultures today, to charge money to pose for photos with overweight American tourists. And it’s here, on a wall close to Shibuya’s Yoyogi Park, that the mural in the photo on the preceding pages was painted, sometime – says Miyabi – in November
of December last year: “it started with just outlines. Like chalk. Then one day colour. Then the keitai in the hands.” An adaptation of Picasso’s Guernica, the piece shows, she tells us, the ubiquitous keitai as responsible for corrupting tradition and society. “Just like Shinjuku,” she laughs, comparing the carnage of the piece to the crush of the metro cars on the daily commute. Ask who painted it, and Miyabi smiles. She gestures to her fellow goths, studiously smoking red Marlboro in a mannered teenage fashion as they slump self-consciously against a wall. “Ask them.” And we do. “Did you do this?” And, one by one, six kids give the same answer: “No, you did it.” The line is always delivered dead-pan, rehearsed, and the effect is disconcerting. What’s more disconcerting still, as we walk back to our hotel, is the realisation that for the first 30 minutes we’ve spent in this city not one of these teenagers took a call, snapped a photo, sent a message, read their stars, played a game, or checked their profile. Coupled with fashions we remember from the 80s, it was as if the city was reset twenty years – the technology clock turned back once more.
Sacha Gray writes on Asian culture and society for style-zine 5h:0T
Turn off, tune out, shut up You’d think we’d actually asked for it, wished collectively for it over our birthday candles for the last few decades. Wished to be always contactable, always connected and always on... LBiQ plays devil’s advocate and begs to differ. With 70 million mobile handsets (and, oddly, 71 million SIM cards) in the UK today, compared to only 45 million adults, surely the 21st century multi-function mobile phone is the culmination of long-harboured human desires? Only this doesn’t quite ring true. It’s often been suggested that you can gauge a society’s hopes and fears for technology from the dreaming of its literature, but looking to the history of science fiction reveals no evidence that our current mobile society was ever one we dreamed of. Even the late Arthur C. Clarke, credited with a good track record in the future prediction stakes (notably for foreseeing the geo-stationary telecommunications satellite) only really
touched on the telephone once, and hardly in a positive context. In the 1966 short story Dial “F” for Frankenstein, Clarke predicts a day when all the world’s phones (that’ll be landlines, mind you) will ring simultaneously. This signals a moment of ‘singularity’ when the telecommunications systems of the world achieve consciousness and (with weary genre inevitability) rise to enslave all humanity: “For Homo Sapiens, the telephone bell has tolled.” The video-phone may have been predicted by early pulp writer Hugo Gernsback in 1911 (his 27th century ‘Telephot’ combines both images and fixed line telephony) and the worldwide web was predicted in the pages of both Verner Vinge’s 1981 novella True Names and William Gibson’s Neuromancer three years later. But
the mobile phone went unforeseen until its emergence: a portable device to solve problems we never knew we had and a pocket-based comfort blanket no one ever imagined we could become dependent on. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there are signs of dissent and rejection to be seen in the background of the positive picture that the penetration figures paint. That youth subcultures are starting to consciously reject conspicuous public phone usage is entirely inevitable. Youth will always look to rebel against conformity, and to reject dependence on the mobile phone is to put two fingers up to adult society. There was a time when a child’s 10th birthday was commonly marked by the gift of a watch, highlighting their entry into a world of grown-up cares, commitments and
concerns. These days, it’s more likely to be the gift of ‘my first handset’. The spread of the iconography of the Harajuku Guernica – translated via online fanzines onto the walls and t-shirts of teenagers well beyond Japan – allows the disaffected among this generation to demonstrate a new mode of solidarity. Look carefully at the bigger picture around mobile dissenters, though, and it turns out that there’s much more to it than the poses of youthful rebellion. The ‘New Luddites’ – identified by Hilary Clinton’s estranged advisor Mark Penn in his book Microtrends (reviewed in LBiQ 1.1) – are a growing North American phenomenon. From data gathered over the last decade by the Pew Research Center, Penn highlights the reasons that are making a growing number of Americans turn their backs on the technological accoutrements of our modern lives – the internet, the cellphone and the iPod. These people, asserts Penn, are “Standing firm for the old-fashioned obligation to look people in the eye and say ‘Hello’, not just IM them ‘how r u?’” Then there’s the ‘Playing it Safe’ trend highlighted in Vodafone’s research on page 78, where the increased presence of technology in our lives serves only to increase our fears for both our own and our families’ futures. The key difference between the New Luddites and those who revel in alwayson contactability and endless vistas of information lies in the nature of people’s differing needs for control. ‘Technologypositive’ people believe that new tools give them greater control over their lives; New Luddites believe that these tools are controlling us – that the technologies which promised to make our lives easier have only increased our workloads, our sense
of helplessness and our levels of stress. There’s even a new buzz term around this helplessness. The UK’s Post Office has coined the term ‘nomophobia’ for the 13 million Britons who they claim are living in fear of being out of mobile contact, and thus losing control over their lives. It’s a different aspect of control, however, that has the potential to spur a more universal rejection of next generation mobile phone technologies. The inclusion of GPS tracking functionality in phones is currently being touted as the next big thing. Certainly Nokia, predicting sales of 35 million GPS handsets this year, would appear to be betting the bank on it. “Navigation,” announced CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, launching the N96 handset, “is one of the foundations of the context-aware mobile phone. We believe it will be as important as voice capability was 20 years ago.” It’s telling that the industry term is ‘navigation.’ Tell a society that its citizens must all carry identity cards and they’ll demand a referendum; announce that, inevitably, the movements of all contract mobile phone owners will be trackable and – and as long as you play it as a benefit – they rush to be a part of next year’s sales projection. Of course, whether you believe that the mobile phone could ever come to serve as a tool of state and police surveillance depends on your faith in the legal system, your general level of paranoia and whether you ever personally break the law. And it will always remain a personal issue. How many minutes of your life are you prepared to surrender to playing with your phone in favour of other activities? Should you consider your state-ofthe-art handset with all its myriad functions as a valued extension of yourself, much like the daemons in Phillip Pullman’s Northern
Lights, or should you see it as simply a necessary evil of 21st Century living? One way to find out for sure would be for a pulse like that described in Stephen King’s post 9-11 mobile Armageddon horror-thriller Cell to strike our phones, then – rather than turning us into the rage-fuelled zombies of the novel – to simply disable them for a week or so. It wouldn’t make for nearly as good a story, but just stop to think for a moment about what we might lose and what we might gain, both individually and as a society. Certainly there’d be a sharp reduction in the volume of street crime in the UK. Figures put the crime rate for theft of mobile phones at one every three minutes, and it’s a plausible figure in a world where even the average ten year old has something worth taking through force. Punctuality might once again be seen as a virtue, and fans of voyeurthemed pornography would go disappointed as the daily gigabytes uploaded to photosharing sites all but disappeared overnight. But there won’t be any ‘pulse’. So, instead, let me make a modest proposal. Take your shiny new handset to any poorly lit street corner of your brave new world at night, and then check your email. Just because you can, not because you’re so damn important that you have to. If the police figures are to be believed, you’ll barely have your mail application started up before inevitable events thrust you brutally into a period of cold turkey lasting for as long as it takes your insurance to sort you out with a replacement. Bruises aside, you’ll probably enjoy the nostalgia of having your time to yourself; not feeling guilty that you’re not always at the beck and call of acquaintances and employers; and simply reminding yourself that you’re not a phone number, you’re a free man.
“For Homo Sapiens, the telephone bell has tolled.” 50
Angkor Wat, Cambodia, November 2007 Awed into silence Picture by Stephen Barber.
Sushi through a Glass Darkly
Global research projects can often highlight cross-cultural differences between local markets. LBiâ€™s Lauren Palmer prepares the researcher less-traveled for what they can expect to find when working abroad and highlights some mobile-specific issues noted during a recent global handset testing project across Asia, the UK and North America. 52
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
Hong Kong: Beware the over-concerned host – When observing test sessions in Japan and China, you need to be aware that your hosts are likely to be much more attentive than you’re used to. Anything from coughing within earshot, to putting on an extra layer of clothing if you’re slightly cold, is liable to send someone running to fetch you water or raise the level of air conditioning without you even noticing they’ve gone, let alone asking. Needless to say, gracious acceptance of these acts – even if they’re the last thing you want or need – is the order of the day. Put your faith in Chinese medicine – If you find yourself feeling unwell on the job in China, ask your hosts for advice on what to take. You may be surprised to be offered a worryingly green liquid tincture as a response to a reported headache, but you may also be surprised by the results. Besides, it’s unlikely you’ll find western medication easily – most Chinese tend towards traditional medicines, so western style drug stores are few and far between. Even if you do track one down there’s then of course the language barrier to contend with, at which point you have little choice but to throw yourself at the mercy of the international language of mime. Different tariff structures across China have influenced use and uptake of mobile services, and the lower tariffs in ‘second tier’ cities often result in higher usage of data services. Despite this, cities like Hong Kong have much higher sales of data capable handsets and, as this issue looks at on page 44, the Beijing Olympics will see enhanced mobile data networks rolled out across China, with an accompanying push of new services such as mobile video and live TV.
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
Hong Kong: The Chinese do an excellent line in biscuits – This comes as a silver lining for those who take their tea or coffee white. In both China and Japan, you’ll have to ask your hosts for milk or sugar, and often the sugar is all you can hope for. Also worth noting is the way that tea is served – black, with the bags left in the cups. These may look like the weak ‘Lipton’ teabags you’ll find in the US, but they are in fact to normal tea what cider is to apple juice. Be warned, but do enjoy those biscuits. For a real carbohydrate treat, research in Morocco and Egypt is usually accompanied by a fine array of pastries – for those with a sweet tooth, all day sessions can be accompanied by a serious sugar crash. Despite being the big brother of western development in China, Hong Kong seems to be resting on its laurels. Shanghai is ahead when it comes to cultural development and is keen to be seen as a ‘fun’ place to live. Observers say Hong Kong is more like London or New York, so could research in some of the ‘smaller’ Chinese conurbations provide more lucrative results?
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
New York: “Where are you? I’ll call you on the landline.” A not insignificant number of US consumers still pay to receive calls on their mobile phones, how will traditional carriers increase use and drive uptake of services when even basic voice revenue is so hampered? Innovative MVNOs such as Helio (see page 29) are transforming tariffing and helping users to develop valuable perceptions of differentiation between competing service offerings. SMS usage has also traditionally dragged in the US, but now, as subscribers become ever more used to using text as a mechanic for responding to voting on TV reality shows, it’s starting to grow in person-to-person popularity.
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
London: Revenues generated from accessories and customisation still far outstrip the value of entertainment and social networking services promoted by operators looking to drive further profits in a saturated market. While the industry has been focused on interface and application development, certainly many consumer segments in the UK are still “all about the bling”. Many consumers seem unconcerned with the next generation future that an upgrade to their handset, rather than just to its fascia, could deliver.
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
London: Despite the moral wrestle of working with children under 10 for market research purposes, most network operators and handset manufacturers would admit that this market is one of the most exciting for developing future-facing interface and service concepts. Although we need to ask whether we can properly rely on ‘data’ collected in focus groups with 5 year olds, the insights from a generation of users equally familiar with the controls for consoles such as the Wii as they are with phones can provide valuable inputs into design thinking.
Texting for Health Richard Hamerton-Stove of NHS Choices celebrates his conversion to the cause of mobile in a quest to deliver innovative and inclusive health services across the UK.
Prior to working in the NHS, I spent over ten years in consulting. It’s somewhat inevitable, then, that I was used to paying lip service to the feasibility of ‘multi-channel’ experiences for my clients – typically in the final slides of digital strategy presentations. You’ve probably seen similar charts. Personally I was rarely convinced by the possibilities I talked up. This was before I found myself sitting down to examine the pros and cons of channels for delivering inclusive health
services across as much of the UK as possible. During this process I came to realise that – despite false dawns aplenty for mobile – the combination of health and handsets forms a particularly compelling proposition. I sat down at my keyboard as Saul, and rose again as Paul, Nokia in hand. Mobile’s ubiquity is its greatest asset. Ofcom figures tell us that UK mobile phone penetration is higher than 100%, and that 80% of handsets sold since 2006 have had some form of mobile internet capability. This
ubiquity also highlights mobile’s ability to reach those users who may have no other convenient or regular access to digital services – those on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’. The ‘digital divide’ is a term that first came to prominence in the 1990s, and even now it represents a phenomenon that – no matter how great a technology optimist you might claim to be – never really seems to go away. The latest figures available from the Office of National Statistics continue to paint a very traditional picture of this divide; one
aligned along axes of geography, income and age. Economically disadvantaged areas of the UK including the North East, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland have only 52% of households connected vs. 69% in London and the South East. In terms of age differential, the figures show that 71% of adults over 65 across the whole of the UK have never accessed the internet at all. Take a wider perspective, however, and the scenario starts to look more positive. Firstly you’ve got Digital TV services (to which, perversely, 84% of households in the North East and 77% in Yorkshire & Humberside are connected vs. only 67% for London), and then of course there’s the ubiquitous mobile phone. DirectGov, the main portal to UK public services has been available through Digital TV services such as Sky Active since late September 2006, but when we looked at our channel options for NHS Choices, mobile was yet to be embraced in the same way. For us, a mobile service seemed absolutely essential to ensure that we were delivering on the widest possible potential for information access. Mobile is also a particularly good fit for users of health information due to its very nature: it’s uniquely personal and private; it’s available in almost any location; and handsets rarely leave their owners’ sides. In particular, delivery of services via the mobile phone seemed the most appropriate way to reach younger people, something that would address the perennial NHS concern of reducing health inequalities. Talk to young inner-city teenagers about the mobile web and they’ll show you a nifty new phone that they use for talking, texting and accessing the mobile internet to download music and ringtones. Their phones are often seen as essential to their personal identity and they’ll spend more in absolute terms (and vastly more in relative terms) on their phones than any other section of the population. Phones, it would seem, are the new Nikes. That said, even the most bullish among us can’t claim that the mobile internet has truly arrived, even for the younger demographic. So, while a WAP site is part of the service we now offer through NHS Choices, we’re also piloting an SMS only version. After all, SMS is the dominant method of interaction with mobile after
voice and it’s particularly popular with youth – especially when services are intuitive and well-designed. It’s such a service that we believe we’ve arrived at, and it’s one that UK residents can experience simply by texting one of a number of keywords to 64746 (‘NHS GO’). For example, if you want to locate a dentist just text “dentist”. For your nearest accident and emergency department, try “AandE”. Once a text is received, the system works out your location through triangulating your position on the network and sends out directory information in the form of either a WAP link or a simple SMS. Follow one of the WAP links and you’ll be taken to a page that displays the nearest five locations for the service you’ve requested. And it’s not just for directory-based information either – texting “bmi” to the same number will take you to a body mass index calculator that checks to see if your height and weight proportions are healthy. The same principle of immediate and accurate service available through SMS and WAP is applied across a variety of health scenarios. It’s a fantastic service, and it seems an obvious one to provide, but I’d be lying if I said that getting to this point has been entirely simple. We experienced many of the problems that are common to the process of developing services based on any new technology. For example, there can be a lack of general internal understanding as teams without any particular knowledge of the mobile channel try to work out exactly what the service will look and feel like. Then there’s the across the board lack of experience around the delivery and execution side of things. This makes it hard to find both benefits-oriented case studies and experienced technical developers. In our particular case, a considerable amount of in-house learning was required
over the three months spent developing the NHSGO service. The best advice I can provide to anyone considering a similar project is always to remember that standard business rules apply: if the users don’t want it; it will fail. If you execute poorly; it will fail. If you’re not prepared to adapt; it will fail. What’s important is ensuring that you don’t just move ahead out of excitement around the technology alone, caught up in the potential of the possible over that of the probable. The final challenge we’re now facing is how to market the service and this presents some of the same issues – in particular around case studies to learn from. Again, prior agency experience has taught me that in such situations the backstop hope is that the service will just “go viral”. But as we all know, this is something that you can never plan for, so we’re also exploring promotional deals with networks and portals such as O2, Orange and Yahoo. What we do know for sure, however, is that mobile will remain at the heart of our service strategy moving forwards. In particular the Health Number, 64746 (‘NHSGO’ on all keypads except those of the infuriating new BlackBerry range) will be a core aspect of our brand equity. We hope that over time people will think of this number whenever they find themselves with a health query and – most importantly – be always confident that they’ll get a rapid response. For example, if you finally decide to quit a smoking habit, you could simply text “Quit” to NHSGO and get an immediate message back asking if you’d like to sign up to a stop smoking text service. After all, studies have shown that reminders by text can be twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy. Yet another endorsement of the pervasive power of SMS.
“I sat down at my keyboard as Saul, and rose again as Paul, Nokia in hand.” 69
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A screen too far?
“Neither consumers nor agencies seem to know what their phones can actually do’ networks to provide a platform for ever more engaging and content rich experience. Of course, we can’t count creative agencies out entirely. Some players, like BBH and AKQA, have invested in mobile. BBH, for instance, is aggressively pushing a mobile marketing agenda with Lynx. However, many agencies don’t seem agile enough to catch the latest innovations like the small mobile shops, and their survival doesn’t depend on getting it right like the networks. For the moment, at least…
As the hype around mobile marketing grows, Tristan Fitzgerald of Saatchi & Saatchi asks whether brands have a need for specialist agencies that understand and can deliver creatively against the technology or whether they should trust their existing creative shops to get there in the end? However, perhaps the biggest barrier for agencies is the reliance on the creative team and the classic ‘big idea’. Craig Manson, who sold his bar and club SMS promotion business Justabeep to Diageo in 2002, agrees: “Traditional agencies thrive on bold, creatively-driven campaigns. Historically, the mobile platform has offered a limited content experience with campaigns being restricted to generic ‘text to win’ mechanisms. This doesn’t create much scope for a traditional player to justify a hefty creative fee!”
Confused consumers and other barriers Maybe clients aren’t that excited because they see common sense constraints to the potential of mobile marketing. A couple of years ago I observed some focus groups testing reactions to new interactive channels for a finance brand. People consistently said that they
found mobile marketing intrusive – invading the ‘personal space’ of their handset. Perhaps this is because mobile phones are used, in the main, for intimate communications: the voice of a loved one or a text from a mate. Therefore consumers feel particularly irked by a brand when they receive a random push-SMS message or an ad via Bluetooth when they’re in a bar. There are also technical barriers for users. As Saatchi & Saatchi’s CTO Chris Walker says, “Consumers are scattered all over the shop with regards their handset capabilities and their access to cheap data rates, let alone ‘always on’ services.” Furthermore, consumers don’t actually know what their phone can do. According to a poll of 11-to-25 year olds by Q Research, the customers who are supposed to be at the cutting edge of the market are rather confused by interactive mobile services. For instance, although they participated in the survey via a WAP site, 32% said they didn’t have internet access on their phone! Walker is also candid about the technological challenges that developers face when it comes to mobile marketing. “The sheer variety of handsets in circulation at any one time gives rise to content and delivery considerations that simply don’t apply in the main to other digital channels,” he says. “In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, this makes clients and media agencies wary of investing in additional channels just for the sake of it.”
We’ve all heard talk of mobile marketing fulfilling its potential for some time now. I certainly remember, some 9 years ago, being told that WAP was going to take off once some really useful stuff was launched on it. Then there was the network providers’ scramble for 3G licences and the failure to capitalise on the billions spent. Now the iPhone has apparently cracked open the wireless industry and mobile social networking is going to be huge. Forgive me for feeling a certain sense of déjà vu. My personal experience of the UK market is that mobile marketing tools are something that brands aren’t willing to spend money on, unless there’s an obvious synergy (like Yell and its mobile search application). Beyond SMS marketing, they’re the sort of thing that agencies always include in a pitch and then rarely build once the pitch is won. So why are many agency clients in the UK so tepid towards the possibilities, and are creative agencies the best organisations to deliver the ideas that will capture those screens on their behalf?
So who seems to be succeeding in mobile marketing? People like Craig Manson offer a clue. Small specialist agencies and mobile entrepreneurs are flourishing. They’re able to spot niche opportunities in the mobile ecosystem and nimbly exploit them. These are the people who TV companies, for instance, turn to when they want to integrate mobile as a component of their content mix. It’s not all independents, however. Big content providers like AOL and the mobile networks are aggressively competing for territory as the mobile internet becomes more ubiquitous and accessible. Craig believes they’re right to invest: “In the UK, handset penetration is beginning to plateau, but the wireless internet capability of the installed base continues to improve.” This is where networks’ profits will come from – not voice and text. There’s now an incentive for the
Where does all this leave creative agencies? The market for mobile advertising isn’t mature yet, but there’s potential and agencies need to think ahead. Chris Walker uses broadband uptake as an analogy. “The UK market has a way to go before mobile as an advertising medium really takes off,” he suggests, “don’t forget, it was only fairly recently that the UK really took broadband to heart.” Walker believes, that in order for agencies to exploit medium, they have to
think beyond gimmicks that tie into an abovethe-line campaign. “Mobile is already way beyond a Crazy Frog ring-tone and premium SMS, but we need to ensure we’re equipped to maximise its potential before pitching up to the client and recommending it.” To do this, he suggests that agencies must make strategic alliances, providing applications and entertainment that people genuinely want and find easy to use. “Agencies and operators must join forces to ensure that the very best can be gotten from mobile,” he says, “not only as it stands today, but as it will stand in the future. Projects like Google’s Android offer an increasingly bright light at the end of the tunnel, with the promise of a unified approach to delivering services and content to supported devices.”
Also, if the way the iPhone delivers internet services and browsing becomes the norm, this experience will, in the most part, consist of resized web content and ‘lite’ versions of online tools. That’s something that agencies can understand and deliver. Maybe such convergence will actually save their mobile bacon? I certainly hope so. Tristan Fitzgerald is Head of Interactive Copy at Saatchi & Saatchi. He lusts after an iPhone, but will stick to good old-fashioned voice and text on his mobile for the moment.
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FOCUS deSigN & uSer experieNce
‘Frenzied sexual banter’ and a pint of the Black Stuff - Simon gill goes mobile in Filthy McNasty’s, april 2008.
Paint a bigger picture For creatives, mobile offers both opportunities and constraints. Simon Gill looks at how brands can best use the channel to put their hearts in your pocket.
Let’s avoid any historical references to cranky old WAP phones, intrusive text-sex messages or annoying reminders of the latest greatest new thing. Let’s not get caught up in any revenue or technical considerations. Let’s simply take ideas as our ruler and emotional response as our scale. One of my favourite examples of creativity in mobile is from male grooming brand Lynx. The entry to the Lynx mobile experience is, for many, through a traditional website. So what’s so mobile about that? Well, this is proper integrated stuff. Downloadable mobile tools on the site fit perfectly with the campaign; it’s a natural extension from web to phone, both in terms of creative idea and channel appropriateness.
The Lynx campaign is targeted at computer-geek boys who, cut off from their ADSL life-support and without the ‘I’m so smart’ umbilical cord of Google, need some assistance in the seduction game. Cue a series of downloadable mobile applications designed to help break the ice, start a conversation and propel these youngsters into frenzied sexual banter with ‘the ladies’. The applications on offer include ‘LynxFX’, a portable sound generator with a tone for unlocking a make believe Porsche, and the ‘Fit Girl Finder’ – a veritable satnav of lust designed to navigate its owner straight to the most attractive lady. Users are encouraged to get their friends to capture the resultant ‘Lynx Effect’ on their mobiles and upload this to the brand’s YouTube channel.
Lynx then positions itself as the user’s reliable wingman on a boozy night-out, putting the brand right at the centre of their experience a participation brand indeed. In terms of success, declared stats tell us that 75% of visitors to the site downloaded at least one application, and the YouTube channel provides evidence that these tools are actually out there and working (or at least providing entertaining ‘crash and burn’ footage for Lynx boy’s mates to enjoy). What I love about this campaign is the way that it cleverly combines a number of channels to create a believable, entertaining and enabling message. The mobile tools are not just an adjunct to the campaign; rather they’re the actual invitation to get involved and they fully deliver on the brand’s tongue-
in-cheek (ahem…) ‘get in there’ proposition. Top marks to Lynx and BBH. participatory experience is the key So is this kind of participatory thinking the norm? Vodafone’s UEFA Champions League work hits the same spot – an innovative and creative idea that gets users involved. Based on the insight that fans will use their mobiles during a match for texting banter and checking scores, Nokia came up with a shoot-and-score programme that made normally static perimeter boards interactive. Using a camera phone, fans could ‘take’ a penalty shot by aiming at the goal in the stadium. These shots were then analyzed and a WAP page showed users whether or not they’d hit the target. This point, shoot and send mechanic sounds like an interesting way to engage users with the brand, and it certainly plays up to Vodafone’s ‘make the most of now’ strapline. So, it’s a healthy state of affairs for mobile creative then? Well…. how not to make the most of mobile You see, outside of sport, hitting on girls and other campaigns tied to physical location or events, it seems there needs to be a push to stimulate use. O2’s work with Q Magazine for their recent Q Awards used the enticement of exclusive artist content only available via a WAP site to attract an audience. Juicy bits from the WAP site included footage of red-carpet action, ‘wild winner’ predictions, downloadable icons and the ability to vote in certain awards categories. On the face of it, these all seem credible enough offerings - but pushing content that could already be 24 hours old to a small mobile screen doesn’t seem to me to be the best use of the medium. Surely methods to exploit the immediacy and ‘on the move’ nature of mobile interactions - for example, tracking and conveying the evening’s developments in real time, allowing users to engage in text debate with the show, or even just gauging the mobile audience’s response to a particular result - would have felt more intimate, more participatory, and served as a more meaningful and effective way of engaging with target users? Simon gill is a creative director at lBi
content that works: avoiding the Facebook widget trap Just as many current web campaigns regurgitate the same ideas of a MySpace skin, Facebook widget, blog and screensavers, much mobile activity seems stuck at the level of wallpapers, ringtones and the occasional piece of premium content. These tools aren’t necessarily bad - it’s just that they shouldn’t be the first or only tricks a mobile creative pulls out the bag. For many users, these just aren’t enough of an incentive to get involved and, as a result, those that do don’t stay hooked for long. The recent ‘Basketball is Brotherhood’ campaign by Adidas in the US avoided this trap nicely. They set up a tool for fans to leave an actual voicemail message for NBA star Kevin Garnett. By opting in, subscribers had the chance to feel included in the Adidas ‘brotherhood’ by receiving encouraging calls and texts from brand-sponsored stars. This personal, inspiring and real sense of togetherness was (unsurprisingly) responsible for helping boost sales of related merchandise. Where the service did offer downloads, these were customised to a favourite player or message. The emotional trigger is a sense of belonging – the participation brings togetherness. The statistics reveal mobile outperformed all other media on the campaign and at a significantly lower cost. Vouchers, ticketing and voting have been a successful tactic in mobile for several years and have been used well by the drinks industry in particular. As a lover of the Black Stuff, the Guinness Taste campaign by Aerodeon caught my eye. Conceived to find the pub or bar serving the ‘Best tasting Guinness in Britain’, the campaign used a simple league table published in real time through the web, WAP and SMS. The use of retail vouchers prompted customers to vote on the quality of taste and catalysed intense rivalry between competing bars and teams. This real time, in-the-field involvement
generated genuine excitement between participants, had a direct effect on product quality, and left all involved with a strong yet simple brand take out – not to mention an 8% on-trade lift in participating regions. Another tactic for the drinks market has been to provide specialist mini-guides. These could be based around the best bar, the best drink or cocktail or a combination of these ideas. Smirnoff has recently released a mobile site based around a pocket bartender who suggests one of his signature vodka cocktails to help you out when ordering a drink at the bar. Other features on the site include a ‘Vodkapedia’, a purity test and a city nightlife guide with recommendations based on the kind of mood you’re in. Given the popularity of mobile mapping applications, this branded utility is not that surprising. To be successful these kinds of products need to make sure the service is useful and unique to the brand. And they need to get in there early – I’m expecting to see a slew of imitators in the near future. So, what’s the current state of mobile campaign creativity? Having taken a personal interest in mobile ever since those first WAP seminars with Nokia in 1999, it’s great to see mobile marketing evolving into a truly sophisticated art. And though we’ve seen technical advances along the way, creativity remains at the heart of producing successful cut-through campaigns. Mobile is personal. It’s with us all the time now, so to make it work a brand needs to create a participatory experience. Although the ‘always on’ quality of a mobile seems like the key differentiator for this kind of marketing, your idea doesn’t necessarily require mobile internet connectivity - as LynxFX demonstrates so well. Instead you should concentrate on making your idea mean something real to your users and only then make it mobile in order to get people closer to your brand’s real world activities and action.
“Much mobile activity seems stuck at the stage of wallpapers and ringtones.”
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FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
Tighten Up Your
Tentacles LBi’s Warren Hutchinson explains why the most successful user experiences of the future will be ‘portable’ rather than simply mobile.
In the last two years there’s hardly been a web site I’ve worked on that hasn’t had an interesting and appropriate mobile angle to explore and exploit – but this hardly ever happens. Why? Because designing mobile experiences can seem like too big a challenge. Not only are there a plethora of devices, a variety of input methods and a number of differing network and handset issues to take into account; there are also the bigger issues to be resolved around what ‘mobility’ actually entails. This is where it all starts getting complicated. The real challenge in designing for mobility, much more so than the relatively simple definition of interfaces for mobile services, is around ensuring that mobile is never treated as an isolated channel for interaction. This is why I’ve been less interested lately in the concept of ‘mobile’ experiences and more concerned with the concept of ‘portable’ experiences. Right now, it’s to new kinds of networked experiences across a number of digital touch-points (including mobile devices) that brands hoping to entrench themselves in their consumers’ lives should be looking. When I talk of ‘portable experiences’, I’m talking about the way that we inhabit and interact with our world today. At
the moment, we’re seeing people fulfil a number of information, entertainment and communication needs across a wide range of contexts: at home; at work; on the move; and even in their precious ‘downtime’. As a result, mobile services need to be designed not as standalone silos but as parts of an integrated and entirely appropriate whole. Think about it. Today’s handsets are about much more than communication. They can act as our organisers (removing the need for a separate PDA), replace portable media players and even serve as tools for spontaneous creativity. We can pull content from the web, create new content and then share it at the push of a button. It’s no wonder that we’re consuming handsets so fast that there are more of them on the planet than there are people to use them. As a result, it’s no longer possible to think about the design of a website without thinking about how it can work in a portable context. It’s about the creation of networked services as a whole, not just services for a given device. As Henry Jenkins points out in Convergence Culture, “Our new media world isn’t about content and distribution. It’s about people, connections and social networks.” It’s a world where context sits as king on an ever-moving throne, so portable is the only way to go.
But designing portable experiences requires a whole new approach to the design process and it’s one that comes with new challenges – the most important of which I briefly outline below. People are always connected In a world of connected living, users want to access the far-reaching tentacles of your service and to snack on the core from afar: they want ready access to key features, succinctly designed and delivered so that they can chomp when they choose. These tentacles represent the portable heart of your service; the aspects most frequently changed and updated, and the components that users need when they are out and about. These needs can be real and practical, driven through utility (e.g. “let me know when my sister comes online”), or they can be more emotionally driven by simple information anxiety, as in “I have to check my Facebook status now!” When we carry a handset, we become ‘wired in’. Devices enable our location to be determined, they can identify us as unique individuals and they even come with an inbuilt payment mechanism. Much has been written about the computing power that we all carry in our pockets, how the technology in our handsets outstrips that which placed
a man on the Moon nearly 40 years ago, but, while this is both impressive and important, from a user experience viewpoint it’s hardly mobile’s most significant aspect. The most remarkable characteristic of mobile use is the way that users are able to live lives that are always connected once their phone wires them into a social grid. What this means is that when we design digital services we need to be thinking about much more than just a web site experience. We need to think about mobile access points and scenarios, and which aspects of any given service may be the most suitable for deployment and consumption on the go. Consideration of these scenarios is vital to ensuring that any service delivered on the move provides users with real value – otherwise you’ll just be presenting a vanilla ‘mobile’ version of a PC-based web experience. Consider the difference between the portable applications offered by MySpace on the one hand and Facebook on the other. The mobile Facebook experience is in tune with contemporary on-the-move information
than utility. That’s not how anyone should be thinking these days. Our roles are blurring Instant messenger technology has a lot to answer for – not least because IM was one of the first services to start blurring the boundaries between social and professional contexts. All of us now have (to some degree) the ‘social me’, the ‘professional me’ and the ‘family me’, and all of these can be very different. When developing user experiences, it’s common practice to consider exactly how people define themselves. This is unsurprising. After all, registration information is typically a component part of the ‘contract’ to access and use a given service. But when we consider how to make an experience portable, my view is that the typical registration process is missing a trick. Registration is supposed to be the opening gambit in an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship between user and service; so why is it that we tend to ignore the context of role when we collect data from registrants?
are still referring to themselves by names such as ‘ParisHasslehoff’, ‘The Wince’, ‘KazBanger’, ‘Boomtish’, ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Dr Pig’. I, for the record, am the ‘Snowbadger’. We all play roles in our daily lives: friend; colleague; boss; parent; and so on. Once upon a time, it used to be easy to identify which role we were in simply by where we were or what time of day it was. But now, mobility coupled with flexible living makes it increasingly hard to apply the correct etiquette and to know how to react. There is a very fuzzy boundary between our professional and social contexts: we use personal mobiles for business calls and personal IDs on our instant messengers in the office. It’s even common practice for colleagues and clients to become our contacts in the new social playgrounds of Facebook, Last.fm and Flickr. (This of course provides for comic opportunities in the blurring of our personal and professional lives. One misplaced invite and the contacts in your professional life
“Users want to access the far-reaching tentacles of your service and to snack on the core from afar.” anxiety and as such is focused on delivering status updates and news feeds. MySpace, with its recently launched MySpaceMobile application, takes a different approach. While a great deal of effort appears to have gone into ensuring that the service is available through the operator decks of pretty much every network out there, they haven’t looked at focusing on those elements of their service most applicable to usage on the go – it’s simply the usual MySpace shenanigans in your pocket; a strategy focused on ubiquity rather
Let’s go back to IM. When IM started being used between colleagues across corporate networks, many of the services required a personal email address in order to work – for example, the relationship between MSN Messenger and Hotmail. As a result it was unsurprising to find managers popping up on your screen under non-professional aliases such as RocketMan007@hotmail.com rather than by their (hopefully) more prosaic given names. Just scanning my IM list in front of me now shows me that some of my LBi colleagues
will gain an insight to the other ‘you’ – the one that updates their status message to read “bored, bored, bored…” or worse when you’re working on their project.) In fact, with so much rich information available on individuals, one wonders why employers within many industries still bother asking for CVs. One quick bout of Googling based on just the information I provide in this article will give you access to my latest blog ramblings on Wordpress, photos of my last weekend on Flickr, details of what I’m
FOCUS deSigN & uSer experieNce
FOCUS deSigN & uSer experieNce
listening to on Last.fm, my professional network on LinkedIn and so on. With this much personally identifiable data out there, it’s unsurprising that privacy and data management are hot topics – not just from the point of view of protecting ourselves, but also from a perspective of managing our multiple identities. Particularly notable in this regard is the OpenID project (openID.net) which attempts to reconcile the situation by allowing users to choose which ‘persona’ they wish to use for a given website or service. At the heart of OpenID is a decentralised sign-on system that enables users to utilise one set of user name and password details for all participating sites, removing the need to remember all those different passwords and log-in IDs. And of course, it also makes it less likely that your bosses will get to see those party photos… The lesson here? This is a blurring of boundaries that creates noise and clutter in users’ lives. The services that succeed will be those which provide clear and simplified access to personalised services. How to achieve this? Just ensure that the personas and user journeys developed in the design process take into account the when and the where of service access, not just the what, the why, and the how. Personas are a great tool and an invaluable asset in the conception, design and provision of
services, but I can’t help feeling that embedding richer information around access scenarios within these personas would be of immeasurable benefit in making sure that the right tentacles are always reaching out to the right places. push is now ‘pull, hack and Share’ Not only are access scenarios and role definitions changing in the face of an everincreasing range of access points and network speeds, but so too are the ways in which people want to utilise information, services and entertainment on the move. The way it used to work is that if a user wanted to access content or services then they had to go to a particular web site and view HTML pages in a presentation format of that web site’s choice. That was then, but now users have the ability to consume content on their own terms. This might mean laying it out in the manner they find most helpful, adding extra functionality, turning off inserted adverts or even stripping away the design altogether and viewing the raw information in a text format outside of a browser. There are a variety of technical tools enabling users to do this. They can use RSS, OPML, Greasemonkey scripts, or open APIs to take what they need and present it according to how they want to use it. And if users aren’t doing this for themselves, then someone will be doing it for them: every behavioural choice
or shift creates new business opportunities and this could be your lunch that someone else is eating. Why allow someone else to provide this extra value to your audience? So, how to embrace this trend and design your data for disruptive use across a variety of devices and access scenarios? The first key lesson is to remember that RSS – even at its most basic level – is so much more than simply a ‘news feed’. RSS can cover any content service that offers frequent updates and that users might want to snack on, regardless of their context. Then, to make sure you offer your service first before someone else gets in there, you need to be thinking about time, location and people. When is your service most useful? Where might location play a part? How timely is the information? What aspects of the service might be practically useful? Which aspects might be addictive? To illustrate this point, on 5th February 2008, voters in 24 different states across North America chose their party candidates in what was the largest number of primaries taking place at any one time in US election history. By teaming up with Google Maps, ‘micro-blogging’ service Twitter invited participants in those primaries to engage with each other via SMS and share their experiences. The result? A Google Map tracking up-to-the-minute opinion, with added videos, Google News headlines and election results. This was a clear demonstration
of how people are using technology to pull information into their own personal contexts on their own terms – unsynthesised, live and raw. Now, it may seem that these points are less about mobile and more about the generic web 2.0 expectation of users to be able to access open content and services in order to ‘remix’ these in a manner of their own choosing. But this is the point – part of the reason that ‘mobile’ experiences have been so woefully underserved to date is that too many players have been engaged in futile attempts to develop a ‘second web’; a mobile one that’s disconnected from that which we access through our PCs. Forget about this. Mobile isn’t a whole new thing; it’s simply another channel for the same old/new thing: connected content and services delivered through the web in the ways that users want. The pulling, hacking and sharing behaviour of today’s users stands as the opposite of the ‘push’ paradigm previously employed for most mobile services – but ‘push’ is ultimately all about providing users with a contrived, second-guessed experience. No one should be looking for a separate mobile service, but everyone should be looking at how best to provide a relevant and useful mobile component to what they already do best. Warren hutchinson is a user experience director at lBi
“it’s a blur that creates noise and clutter in users’ lives.” 76
What are you implying? As mobile devices and technologies become ever more pervasive in society, Ben Fehnert of Vodafone Group’s User Experience team discusses how the world’s largest mobile network operator by revenue looks at the way we live our lives in order to better design for future needs. Since 2004, Vodafone has been building a dedicated user experience team comprised of experts from a variety of backgrounds including Human Computer Interaction, Design, Research and Technology. This multidisciplinary focus was a key theme at the 2008 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and is at the heart of Vodafone’s commitment to user experience as a key differentiator as the mobile market moves forward. To deliver on this ambition, the Vodafone UE team works not only to ensure that user
needs are fed appropriately into the design process itself, but also to help understand the real-world contexts in which Vodafone devices and services are used. Currently the team is working to develop insights in core trends within society to help gain a better understanding of the underlying user needs and the market for mobile devices - in particular the mobile internet services delivered through them - may move in the future. The process of developing this research has been rigorous. A wealth
of detail from primary user research conducted over the last four years was combined with the outputs of desk research and media scanning. With inputs ranging from media and academic sources, to individual weblogs and community forums. This body of work was supplemented by interviews with users, designers, experts and writers, enabling the team to unpack, explore, challenge and validate its findings. Below, we briefly explore four of these themes at their present stage of development and highlight how Vodafone, through its partnerships with industry and agencies, uses this kind of trend analysis alongside persona driven user centred design processes to create market-leading user experiences.
“Fitting around me” Rather than struggling to fit inflexible technologies into their lives, people are increasingly demanding that both devices and their interfaces fit around their attitudes, behaviours and experience. They want tools that can be used instinctively and easily, and those failing to satisfy these criteria are quickly labelled unacceptable. As usability becomes a more prominent concern, people expect new devices to work straight of the box and to master them through play and experimentation not through repeated and frustrating reference to an instruction manual. What lies behind it? As ever more sophisticated technologies and interfaces have become increasingly commonplace in our lives, expectations have been raised. The wide range of interactions
that people experience in work, play and communication means that they can now easily make comparisons and recognise limitations. What does it mean? People are becoming more familiar with and skilled in using new technologies, but they still expect simplicity as an end benefit. They will only invest an effort in learning to use technologies when this effort is matched by
benefits delivered in return. Because simplicity is not expected to come at the expense of flexibility, the future adoption of new tools and interfaces will depend on the skill with which designers balance effortless interaction with the ability to access additional options. As the range of devices and interfaces people utilise expands, the demand for consistency between interfaces and the ease of integration between devices will become increasingly paramount.
• Increasing number of companies promoting intuitive design and fuelling an appetite for flexible, delightful solutions.
• People persisting with existing devices due to lack of awareness of alternatives.
• Increasing complexity of mobile devices requiring users to manage a greater range of functions.
“Having it all” As people try to do, and to have, as much as possible, our lifestyles are becoming increasingly busier. Pressure to balance successful careers, attentive parenting and active social lives has created the perception for people that there is simply too little time in their lives. As a result, some turn to lifestyle advice books, time management services and multifunctional devices intended to help them experience more while managing conflicting demands. For others the pressure to achieve simply becomes too great, leaving them in search of a simpler and more relaxed pace of life. What lies behind it? On the one hand the complexity of modern lifestyles is due to factors such as atypical working hours, the rise of dual-income households, and the escalating number of consumer decisions. However the increased pressure to have it all is also a result of the higher lifestyle expectations that people have gained due to greater social opportunities and affluence. People now feel they are missing out if they do not meet these higher expectations and feel compelled to try and achieve them even if it means putting themselves under pressure.
What does this mean? People own, and are surrounded by, an abundance of technology and services which promise to manage their time and to help them do more within its constraints. Often, however, the benefits of time to be saved and experience to be gained can be outweighed by the effort it takes to integrate these new opportunities into their lives. As a result, many of these technologies are either unused or not used to their full potential.
• Increased mass penetration of Web 2.0 and mobile devices;
• Changes of affluence due to changes in global markets.
• Increased affluence of developed world.
• Backlash against capitalist aspirations, ie. the ‘downsizing’ trend.
Ensuring the adoption of further new products and services is likely to depend just as much on the ease with which these integrate into people’s lives as it will on the benefits they offer. Those attempting to live at a more relaxed pace are particularly sensitive to the effort it can take to bring new services into their lives and will be most receptive to offerings which allow integration to be taken one simple and incremental step at a time.
“Managing choice” user-generated content contributes to this and reduces trust in traditional ‘official’ authorities. In addition, the growing individualisation of society means that people increasing feel personally responsible for protecting their own interests and managing their own welfare. Complicating this still further is a new range of fears such as identity fraud and online hacking brought about by the everyday proliferation of technology. The intangibility of these can make it difficult to evaluate them properly, further increasing their sense of threat.
“Playing it safe” Increasingly, many people perceive the world as growing ever more filled with the risks of a growing number of threats and dangers to their lives. These concerns aren’t just for global threats such as terrorism and pandemic, but include a growing number of everyday fears. These include such topics as pollution, population, child safety and the potential benefits and challenges of the internet and video games. As people become more apprehensive towards these perceived threats, they adopt precautionary measures such as monitoring their children’s communication and investing in advanced home security systems.
What lies behind it? People’s anxieties and sense of vulnerability are fuelled by the range of information they receive from media, government and corporate sources – which they may perceive as conflicting. The impact of much
What does this mean? Some people are becoming less content to rely solely on information supplied by official sources and often place greater trust in word of mouth of independent channels such as blogs and campaign groups. Because they want to feel that their anxieties are being listened to, individuals will be most trusting of organisations that involve them in debate over issues which concern them. As the purchase and use of commercial products and services overlaps with an increasing range of people’s concerns in the wider world, the onus will increasingly be on brands to pre-empt fears and provide reassurance at key points in their interaction with consumers.
• Immediacy of future pandemics, health scares or terrorist attacks.
• Reduction in affluence leading people to concern themselves primarily with satisfying basic living standards over preoccupation with secondary treats.
• Increasing affluence in the developing world means people develop fears disproportionate to the risks they face.
Some people are increasingly overwhelmed by the options facing them and are looking for more effective ways to manage choice. In value-oriented markets such as utility services and supermarket retail, people are looking for options that fit their practical requirements and budget quickly and easily. In parallel, within premium and specialist interest categories, some people are searching for more detailed and nuanced information to help refine their choices. As this range of choices expands, lifestyle magazines, consumer guides and retailers themselves are increasingly focused on promoting rewarding combinations of choices rather than single fixed options.
In future, choice management services will become far more commonplace but – In order
to remain valuable over time – they will have to aggregate not just product and service choices, but the management tools provided by others.
• Continued privatisation of markets, and the resultant need to choose between a range of new services.
• Reaction against homogeneous products and overcrowded marketplaces; driving a return to localised shopping behaviours.
• Increased mass penetration of Web 2.0 and mobile internet devices enabling greater access to choice management tools and peer recommendations.
What lies behind it? While a wide range of product and service choices is largely viewed as a having a positive benefit for society, in some areas the options have increased so much that they can create a considerable barrier to decision. As the range of choices facing the consumer grows, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to identify the value offered by specific products. This continuing proliferation of choice has created a sensation of ‘consumer vertigo’ and has heightened the importance of making the right choice. What does it mean? The most valuable services for managing choice are those which tailor choices to individual priorities. As managing choice becomes increasingly critical, people are looking for more sophisticated ways to manage it. The desire to experiment with and try out new products and services has created a demand for more flexible sampling options. Additionally, as people place an increasing emphasis on the advocacy of peers and experts over the voice of brands themselves, they are increasingly using online tools to aggregate these types of guidance.
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
FOCUS DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE
Towards a human to human interface LBi’s Daniel Harris looks at how mobile social technologies developed for location-based flirting services might help facilitate more effective knowledge management in large organisations.
In the 1990s, as employees changed their jobs and careers with increasing frequency, it was a common scenario for their knowledge to walk out the door with them. The constant demands of training new staff became expensive and time-consuming. Conditions were ripe for the emergence of the now familiar Knowledge Management discipline which was seen as a way for businesses to capture, contain and share the expertise of their teams. KM’s aims were – as they remain – to reduce these costs, maintain competitive advantage and above all to nurture motivated and effective employees. The task of developing deep, usable repositories of maintained knowledge is frequently left to over-stretched IT and Human Resources departments. All too often, the results are both ill-defined and poorly implemented: knowledge withers on the vine and tumbleweed blows across poorly structured intranets with content hierarchies too hard-wired to adjust. But what if, instead
of depending on these kind of bespoke systems, it were possible to learn from, or even to utilise for KM purposes, the social networking tools already in use by staff within many firms? A March 2007 report from Forrester Research defines exactly such an approach. Based on an evolution of the familiar Yahoo! Groups model, employees use third party collaboration tools to organise their own management of shared and individual knowledge, with little need for intervention from above or assistance from their IT departments. Without central authority, individuals themselves manage quality through active participation. The valuable knowledge networks that emerge from this do so through shared interests and personal interactions rather than through enforced policies. It’s a scenario that should sound familiar to you, particularly if you’re one of the 37% of all web users who, according to research firm IDC, have registered with a Plaxo, a Facebook or a LinkedIn. In fact, odds
are that you probably even keep your social networking profile up to date as part of your daily routine without being told you have to – something that just so happens to be a core aspect of many current KM processes. These social tools are fast entering the professional paradigm and, with the next stage of social networking evolution seen by many as one that takes these interactions onto mobile devices, it’s worth considering the potential of tying social knowledge management between individuals to the physical space that they share as employees in the workplace. As we highlight in our examination of mobile social networking on page 24, much of the current activity in this area is within services designed for the primary purpose of flirting or dating. Add location awareness to this type of service (and this can be through simple proximity via Bluetooth rather than anything as sophisticated as GPS) and it all gets much more interesting. So much so, that it’s exactly this kind of ‘flirting’ service I’m consciously looking at in order to explore new
modes of knowledge management within organisations. The notion behind these flirting services is simple: Girl A is in a bar, Boy B is in the same bar. How does Boy meet Girl? Well, he can just check the flirting application on his phone, see who else is on the system and then match his interests against those of all the girls (or indeed other boys) sharing the same space. It’s a system that works and you can see high quality demos of such experiences on the sites of start-ups such as Mobiluck and Limejuice as well as on those of already established players like Nokia’s Sensor. So why not use this flirting model, matching people by declared interests and characteristics, to match people to the knowledge in their colleagues’ heads? The aim of such a system would be to exhume some of the knowledge that typically finds itself archived in emails or embedded in lengthy reports and to let it walk again in the daylight within a more useful spatial and social context. This would create a location-based system within a working environment that puts people at the centre of a knowledge management culture, rather than mediating this through clumsy, poorly maintained systems. How to achieve this? At its simplest, by virtually ‘attaching’ this knowledge to individuals and hopefully engineering those kind of water-cooler moments that can so often facilitate a breakthrough in thinking – boy meets girl, boy talks to girl, boy gets answer he’s looking for. Such a system, particularly in larger organisations, would also ideally act as ‘ice breaker’. Consider the following scenario: you’ve been suddenly invited to a meeting where you only know a handful of people. Almost inevitably, 10 new introductions and 10 new names go straight in one ear
and straight out the other. A quick glance at your mobile, however, and you’d know who you were talking to: their role; their previous experience; and even their latest blog post or social status update. After the meeting, with a number of points to research, simple day-to-day movement around the workplace would identify other colleagues either researching similar areas or already in possession of the answers you’re looking for. Move the proposition to other professional situations – such as conferences and events – and the potential for effective physical networking becomes still clearer. These are systems built to a large extent on serendipity, where the goal is not to enable a user to complete a task, but to facilitate a social action. It’s a human thing. It’s such a system that we’re currently experimenting with in the London office of LBi – essentially ‘socialising’ a KM system already capable of exposing the relationships between documents and their contributors. By creating a system that can act as a ‘party host’ – a mutual friend that can slide in, facilitate an introduction and then slide away again – we’re looking at the potential of people, rather than unwieldy systems, to become the interfaces to our collective knowledge. Through an internal mesh network utilising Bluetooth technology, we’re opening up proximity information to our teams. The next step is an API that will be able to support any type of locationbased service for further experimentation, prototyping or testing of solution concepts. It’s not as simple as it sounds, however. A focus on people and their relationships with the public and private spaces around them demands a multidisciplinary approach to the design process. Done properly, as well as calling upon computing, media and technology
disciplines, our studies in this area have drawn on aspects of sociology, geography, architecture and politics. The complexities of studying mobile are, as Adam Greenfield – an eminent researcher in the field of ubiquitous computing – puts it “as complex, flexible and heterogeneous as social life itself.” We’re also keen to use this work to provide us with practical, first hand insights into many of the practical problems around the development of location-based systems, a type of project we expect to become more common in the near future. For example, how can we ensure and protect users’ privacy? How can such a system be effective if people are (as they reasonably should be) able to opt out? And how can we measure the success of such projects? Above all, there’s also the challenge of getting prospective users to turn on their power-sapping Bluetooth in the first place – the proposition for which needs to be compelling. And this brings us back again to flirting... After all, would providing a system which also enables this kind of social interaction on top of its primary business purpose be that bad a thing? Your employees are already using social tools such as Facebook and instant messaging in this way (believe me), and any location-based system that could augment these interactions might well be seen as a value-add. Such social tools within an organisation may even have the potential to deliver a carrot, rather than a stick-based, approach to ensuring that participation in the previously deeply unsexy business of maintaining knowledge repositories is now perceived as valuable on a personal as well as professional level. Daniel Harris is a User Experience Architect at LBi in London.
“Boy meets girl, boy talks to girl, boy gets answer.” 83
“We’re very much the unsung heroes of award winning sites,” says Jon Russell, Managing Partner of LBi’s Managed Services team.
GLOBAL MOBILE LBiQ’s Dom Collier talks to Jon Russell, LBi’s Managed Services Partner - a man determined to take the tide of mobile at its flood. While others just talk about it, Jon’s gone out there and done it. 84
“Without great managed services, award-winning design or mind-blowing creative is just a “page not found” error. If we were working in TV then my team would be the broadcast guys, and if we worked in film we’d be distribution. People might not know what we do, and they might not think it’s cool, but the fact is that if you don’t have that infrastructure backbone then everything’s just going to fall down. You can do the greatest creative work in the world but if it doesn’t reach the people it’s been designed for, at the right time and through the right channel, all that effort and money is wasted. Timing can be everything in this business.” Russell’s clearly aware of the nonglamorous and obscure perception of the work his Managed Services team does. And yet he deals with some of the most glamorous brands in the world. LBi Managed Services works with around 35 clients, including First Choice Holidays, HMV, Corus and Formula 1™ – another good example of an enterprise where speed and timing count for a lot. It is, however one “which we’re not allowed to talk about too much, on account of the value of the brand,” says Russell quickly. In a business where a small 10cm2 plaque or brassard on a driver’s overall can be sold for millions of dollars, that’s understandable. Nevertheless, it’s some of the work for Formula 1™ that we’re particularly interested in today, this being the brand that currently makes best use of LBi’s Managed Services mobile delivery platform. “The thing is, though, although Formula 1™ is the biggest user of this service, and we have clients queuing up to get on the platform, we actually developed this in-house for our own use.” Russell clearly likes the efficiency of this research and development methodology. Because you know exactly what you want, and don’t have any barriers in communicating this to yourself, you can specify and build something that meets all your requirements on a modest budget. As a result you get exactly what you want, working perfectly and at the best possible price – again assuming that you also drive the hardest bargain.
“We had a more basic SMS service in place due to our own need for text services as a support function in Managed Services. It was our main alerting tool, in fact. We developed it as a text messaging service for notifying the support team about issues highlighted by the automated system that monitors our servers. It was very basic but the beauty of it was that because we’d built it ourselves, as well as doing exactly what we wanted it to do incredibly well, the development process also helped us gain a lot of knowledge and skill about how to manage and improve it.” This initial, internal-only system was created in 2002 and ran, with upgrades, until 2006 during which time it sent over 33,000 messages. Then Formula 1™ entered the picture. For the reasons mentioned above, details must remain confidential – but if what we can tell you isn’t enough then just sign up at www.formula1.com and experience the service for yourself. “What we evolved our basic platform into is a full text and picture messaging service. It’s important to note, though, that the picture element isn’t MMS. Why not? Well you have to remember that motor racing is a global sport, with quite literally billions of fans, in hundreds of countries. MMS isn’t supported in all these countries – it’s not even heard of in many of them, to be honest. And even where MMS is supported, in markets such as the UK, there are big technical hurdles involved in transferring MMS messages between operators. “We use a WAP push service instead. This generates and delivers a special text message alerting the receiver to the availability of rich media via a link included as part of the message. The user just activates the link in the message and the rich media is accessed and downloaded via a simple WAP connection. The media is displayed in the browser, which provides much better control in terms of brand presentation. This is the most basic and, to be honest, still the most elegant and cost effective way of moving rich media files around the mobile web for the vast majority of its users – particularly when you’re talking to international audiences. “Yes, you’re going to get some drop-off in your traffic when you put extra clicks in
the journey to get to the content, but that’s a necessary evil and it’s the price you have to pay to ensure that content is actually available in a usable format for those who do get there. In the end, the huge variety of devices, and the number of operators, tariffs and legal requirements in different territories mean that you have to think widest common denominator to achieve maximum coverage for minimum cost. This is what we’ve done, and believe me – it works.” The results speak for themselves. Since launching in March 2006 the enterprise-level platform that LBi has sent over 2,000,000 messages. For Formula 1™ the typical subscriber signs up for 15 text messages per Grand Prix and receives a combination of results and news content. Some fancy underthe-bonnet technical integration with the live timing systems means that automatic results content is fully coordinated with official results, without any need for human intervention or risk of human error. In addition, users get a selection of static images sent as device screen wallpaper after each Grand Prix. Subscribers also get a choice of Formula 1™ ringtone sounds to download, complete with DRM in place to protect copyright. Russell sees mobile’s current coming of age as a key moment, not only in growing the part of the business that he runs but also in integrating and blending this essential ingredient into the full service mix. So what’s to stop that from happening? “Well, we know there’s increasing demand, so it’s not a sales challenge. There are so many opportunities beginning to emerge. We’re starting to see a generation that’s always known mobile devices, a generation that’s grown up very much with phones in hand. This generation now earns a living – they have that all important disposable income – and they know what their phones can do for them. I think that they’re comfortable with the permissions they negotiate with advertisers and content providers and they’re perfectly happy to be sold to through their phones and to also buy through them. “That said, I don’t think the wave’s broken yet. We haven’t had that defining moment when everyone suddenly realises the size of this market and starts responding to it commercially. When it does come it’s going to be huge. There are countless opportunities.
“It’s not widely known or publicised at the moment, but this is the killer app…”
“Of course, there’s been a lot of hype over the past ten years – but that’s all it’s been, hype. Mobile devices are ubiquitous, they’re permanently with us and they provide content immediately on demand. They fill the gaps, the moments in between whatever else we’re doing. You see it all the time during breaks in meetings, people at bus stops. “What’s more, for commercial purposes, handsets aren’t just an access mechanism; they’re also a payment mechanism. Phones, and the accounts they use, are now directly billable. No need to pull out your credit card – the phone and the account has all that functionality built in, as do the financial services providers that the phone communicates with to validate transactions. Removing the barrier of a credit card for commerce also opens up other markets, such as teenage customers. “This is the killer app. It’s not particularly widely known or publicised yet, probably because the technology – which works, I know it works because we’re using it – is still relatively new, and also because people aren’t yet used to using their phone accounts as banks and having enough credit in them to use as payment mechanisms on a
regular basis. The device manufacturers and network operators who have jointly developed the standards that enables this new generation of m-commerce are still not shouting as loudly about it as they could, but it’s real.” How best, then, to take advantage of the opportunity? The traditional inhibitors of mobile growth, discussed elsewhere in this issue, have included unwieldy pricing models and awkward uncooperative behaviour between networks. To Russell, though, these are just teething problems – the same old same old. “There’s absolutely no doubt that mobile marketing and commerce will become, is already becoming, a massive and massively lucrative area of enterprise. It’s not that we’re trying to sell something people don’t want and it’s not about cost either. The real challenge is appropriately integrating mobile into the corporate communications, marketing and services mix. “My team faced exactly the same issues when dealing with just the web ten years ago. Back then, clients wanted to be involved with this new channel, but it was always on the back of ‘traditional’ work that was already planned and in some cases already executed. It’s hard to be coherent when you work in that
way, and I think that’s the challenge that we’re up against with mobile marketing solutions now. They are still happening too much in isolation, as standalone activities. “Now the solution to making sure that the mobile element is fully integrated is to make sure that all the people involved understand and discuss what the mobile opportunity is up front, when the conversation begins. This is what we’re pushing at LBi at the moment, and this is where I think LBi really has the opportunity to demonstrate extra value. All those other parts of the equation, whether it’s Planners or Experience Architects, Technical Architects or Creatives, are all here under one roof in the same organisation. It’s this that’s going to see our clients able to realise the benefits of mobile in the short term rather than the long. “I think that our mobile platform, a global system that allows us to communicate directly with billions of people in hundreds of countries, is going to inspire the creative, commercial and technical talent within the business to develop more and more innovative, interesting and lucrative solutions for our clients, and I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.”
What we’ve been reading, sites we’ve checked out, our take on the things we’ve found interesting and all the other stuff that didn’t fit in until now.
REVIEW MEATBALL SUNDAE BY SETH GODIN
“God knows what Disney CEO Bob Iger has ever done to Seth Godin…” A friend of mine has a chart he likes to use when he presents on marketing in the age of web 2.0. The X-axis represents “the amount of times I hear about the Long Tail” while the Y-axis shows “the amount I give a shit”. This chart – a parody of the ‘power law’ distribution curve typically used to demonstrate the concept of the Long Tail itself – is used to make a powerful point. The key tenets of the new marketing are being devalued in their use as empty evangelical buzzwords by businesses that lack the vision and commitment needed to put them into meaningful practice. It’s a point that’s hammered home repeatedly in this latest piece of impassioned and compulsively readable polemic from marketing guru Godin, though in truth there’s little new in Meatball Sundae we haven’t heard from him before. Indeed, the ultimate message hasn’t progressed much beyond the key ‘markets are conversations’ insight that powered the Cluetrain Manifesto, itself a highspeed follower along the rails laid by Godin’s earlier Permission Marketing. What Godin brings to this latest discussion of 14 trends impacting business in the 21st Century is an all-new, hard-line attitude: this time it’s do or die. Marketers and their agencies, says Godin, are treating the techniques of the new marketing as simply so much whipped cream and cherries to be liberally dolloped over the top of old-fashioned ‘meatball’ organisations. The result – a focus on the cosmetic with no thought for bottom-up realignment with
market trends – is predictably indigestible to consumers. “Ask not what the new marketing can do for you”, declaims Godin, “ask what you can do to thrive because of the new marketing.” It’s as a wake-up call to these meatball organisations that Godin takes such a strong position. This is an “all or nothing” turning point in the way that companies organise themselves, and “sooner or later you’re going to play by the rules of this new game or watch the game get won by someone else.” It’s also made clear early on that the winners in this new game are often startups free from the encumbrance of earlier structural and organisational models. This, says Godin, is why American Express never acquired PayPal, and why Barnes & Noble never became Amazon. They were unable to conceive of an environment where ideas are spread by groups of people and where consumer-to-consumer conversation is the new mass media. Success in this environment “doesn’t demand better marketing, it demands better products, better services and better organisations.” In short, you shouldn’t be looking at applying the lessons of web 2.0 to your brand website, you should be looking at applying them to what your business actually does all day. Elsewhere, the book – one of its author’s longest – delivers some trademark Godin touches. The familiar name-checking of small but successful inspirational companies you’ll never have heard of remains, (try Etsy.com, Sendaball and Threadless. com), as does the ever-changing nature of the conceptual frames used to get the ideas
across. With its dizzying talk of two ages of marketing, three eras of advertising and four separate industrial revolutions, it’s as if the book’s unusual length is intended to ensure that everyone – finally – gets the point. Godin even finds the time to paint a bravura picture of 18th century craftsman Josiah Wedgwood as a game-changing pioneer of new marketing techniques. The pay-off, a comparison to Josiah’s older, set-in-his-ways, and ultimately unsuccessful brother, Thomas, is as effective as an instructional tale as that of any of the new dot-coms Godin holds up for praise. Another new riff for Godin’s axe this time around is his demolition of the concept of the advertising-led ‘Big Idea’ as still being at the heart of effective marketing. Big ideas in advertising worked well when advertising was in charge, but with mass media now neither as effective or desirable as they once were, the ‘Big Ideas’ that count now are those which are embedded into the experience of the product itself – like that of the BlackBerry, for example. Meanwhile, God knows what Disney CEO Bob Iger has ever done to Godin, but the book ends with an example of how each of the 14 trends discussed can be pointedly applied to this company, a business that appears to be conspicuously failing to recognise some very simple truths: the customer doesn’t care about you and doesn’t want to become a citizen of your branded world; you’re not in charge; customers are narcissistic; and they’ve already got worlds they’re happy in. You need to work out what to do in order to be invited into these worlds, rather than deluding yourself you’re somehow still running the game. Find the time to take the long road through Meatball Sundae – even if you’re familiar with the territory (and really, you should be by now) you’ll still be inspired by Godin’s enduring passion and diversity of reference points. Better still, you’ll be armed with any number of examples to either help you make the case for reinventing your own organisation’s meatballs; or to inspire you to resign and go work for a company that’s been paying proper attention to the changes of the last few years. DA
Award winning cultural critic and commentator Lee Siegel is no stranger to the often hardline cut and thrust of the blogosphere. An editor of centre-left, liberalleaning US magazine The New Republic, Siegel was relieved of this position between September 2006 and April 2007 when it was considered that he’d misled readers by posting – anonymously – on the magazine’s blog to defend his own opinions. Dismissed by their author as a ‘prank’, Siegel’s actions were intended to set himself and his cultural viewpoint above those of the other bloggers posting on the same blog. As the use of ‘mob’ in the title suggests, Siegel – much like Andrew Keen whose Triumph of the Amateur was reviewed in LBIQ’s last issue – believes that the web (and, as a result, contemporary culture and its ‘truths’) are under attack from an environment in which everyone’s opinion is held as equal. Ignoring Siegel’s embarrassing personal situation, the subjectivity of Against the Machine’s observations still forces us to deal with his specific experience. Siegel grandly promises that criticism of the brave new world of web 2.0 always results in counter-attacks based in ageist, anti-Luddite prejudice; but his approach forces us to deal with him by his own method. Siegel chose to write primarily about other people’s bad ideas, and we must likewise beware his abuse of his own and others’ critical acumen. There are a few substantive and thought-provoking ideas in Against the Machine; sadly these worthwhile insights arise out of faulty reasoning, misreading of others’ work and massive generalisations. Take his discussion of “lonelygirl15”, a YouTube girl’s blog revealed as deceptive script. Our acceptance (even approval) of such ‘hoaxes’, he reasons, reveals our fatal willingness to bow before ‘powerful vested interests’ in the era of commercialised pseudo‘freedom’. He is angry at “internet boosterism” (this hideous phrase recurs) of a purported ‘democracy’ of expression in the face of such transparent commercial fakes. At the same time, in the blogosphere, he believes in the superiority of professional, trained contentproducers (AKA Old Media) who really know their craft. So why is he irked by a wild net phenomenon revealed to be a professional
REVIEW AGAINST THE MACHINE BY LEE SIEGEL
“The internet offers communication: it reveals, not hides.” endeavour? Why is he upset by play and pretence, when art always pretends? Perhaps because this messes up his idea that “internet democracy” is a stultifying sham, since it demonstrates that the playing field is truly level for both amateurs and professionals. Siegel argues that the internet stifles individuality by rewarding conformity, and devalues erudition by refusing to recognise an intellectual elite, favouring titillating popularity instead. A sense of very personal affront emanates throughout – perhaps a suitable response to this impersonal horde of the boring, inane and superficial. This comes across, however, not as righteous ire, but rather a symptom of fear – a tiny, unacknowledged fear that possibly the internet is not changing who we are, but only revealing who we have always been. Siegel’s invective targets the selfaggrandising, adversarial online “performing of the self ”, which he likens to popularity contests in the assimilative society of high school. He calls this a nasty by-product of a profit-driven approach to online interaction which has led to “the commodity of the private” – selling your very existence. But he never addresses the age of these wouldbe ‘prosumers’ spreading the culture of narcissistic, competitive ‘self-expression’ he vilifies. The fact is that the early adopters of the social media sites where this expression starts are currently the young. As internet usage inevitably conquers all demographics, the proportion of mature web-savvy professionals and ‘intellectuals’ will grow, and better ‘netiquette’ will surely develop. I hope
Siegel won’t claim any credit for this inevitable evolution of the medium. The internet offers communication: it reveals, not hides. American teenagers still grow up, but now they do it partly online, in Siegel’s previously pristine line of sight. He seems not to know that he can choose to observe or ignore them. As for the avidbut-ineffectual young content producers, he conveniently forgets that basic learning starts with imitation. Amateurs have a more open sandbox than ever before, but as with television, Siegel can always change the channel. He would rather complain. This is the fundamental problem with the book: Siegel sets out to find things he won’t like, succeeds, and then blames the internet. Siegel’s chapter on games, cinema and television is a fairly coherent and engaging exception to the rule. He has been a television critic in the past, and it may be time for him to beat a retreat. Meanwhile, in a book about how the internet’s homogeneous and unoriginal culture is poisoning general thought, Siegel keeps citing examples of this culture, without ever transcending it, and so inherently endorses its captivating power while diminishing his own credibility. He never gets around to solutions. The kindest interpretation I might make of his intended message is: “Stop saying annoying things and go outside” – a message more appropriate to a short blog post, and this is how he possibly should have left it. At least blog posts aren’t 182 pages long... David Midgley
REVIEW THE BIG SWITCH BY NICHOLAS CARR
“Cue the rise of a massive new middle class...” The Big Switch starts out as a work of socioeconomic history, focusing on the changes that the introduction of grid electricity wrought upon the industrialised world in the early 20th century. It then segues, not altogether smoothly, into a series of speculative observations about what the current movement towards grid computing might mean for the human race over the coming century. Its first part, One Machine, tells the sibling stories of electricity and computing. Prior to 1900, most American businesses generated their own electricity locally. Ten years later, most American businesses bought their electricity from central generating companies, or utilities. Similarly, in 2000, most businesses housed and managed their own computing hardware and software. It’s easy to see where this one is going, but – just in case you miss it – Chapter 4, a paean to Google and Amazon praising their creation of computing utilities, is helpfully entitled Goodbye, Mr Gates. In the early 20th Century, the benefits of networked electrical power seemed superficially very attractive. Electricity-consuming companies were able to resume a focus on their core business, while standardisation of product and service delivered cost benefits across the board. This new availability of electricity changed everything, changed it utterly, more fundamentally than any other aspect of the industrial revolution. The effects rippled out from the industrial and commercial core to the burgeoning consumer market with colossal
and irrevocable impact: “What had been scarce – the energy needed to power industrial machines, run household appliances, light lights – became abundant. It was as if a great dam had given way, releasing, at long last, the full force of the Industrial Revolution.” In the US in particular, costs plummeted, prices fell, wages rose dramatically, and vast new sections of the population could now afford a car (from Henry Ford’s new automated production line – itself directly enabled by these new changes), causing material prosperity to spread geographically as well as socially. Enter the suburb and cue the rise of a massive new middle class. Surely this was A Good Thing? To Carr, in purely economic terms, the answer is yes, but in the bigger social picture, this seems less certain. “Jobs became mindless, repetitious and dull… Industrial workers [became] ‘cogs’ controlled by the will of a corporate mind.” Electrification made us financially richer, but it also destroyed a tradition of skilled work and identity that – arguably – has not been replaced since: “the psychic price of the new tools and the new roles they engendered was sometimes high…” Having established electrification both as the change agent in the creation of The Modern World and a relevant analogue for utility computing, Carr sets out in Part Two, Living in the Cloud, to discuss what’s happening in this field right now and what might be coming next. It makes for uneasy reading: partly because Carr himself is simultaneously in awe of and appalled by the
astonishing possibilities of grid computing; and partly because he’s right to be. We are living in a genuinely disrupted and uncertain era and there are no guarantees that the information revolution will result in anything other than the effective marginalisation of the human race. On the one hand, the freedom to publish and to express ourselves has never been easier or cheaper. On the other, that freedom is largely and increasingly controlled by decreasing numbers of ever-more powerful and wealthy people. In a futuristic final chapter, iGod, Carr wonders what effect all the artificial intelligence in cloud-based grid-computing applications will have on human consciousness. The answer turns out to be pseudo-spiritual or quasi-supernatural. We shouldn’t really be surprised. As the late Arthur C. Clarke put it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and ever since the essence of being human was reduced to variations on the DNA base codes, it’s been obvious that – as a species – we are all programmable. Quite why God needs to be brought into the equation is beyond me – but perhaps I’m being disingenuous. Humans have always resorted to higher, imaginary powers in the face of the unknown – even if they’ve created these higher powers themselves. In the case of The Big Switch, Carr manages to stop short of prayer to a supernatural god, but he still rounds off with a semi-spiritual observation for us: “God is no longer the Great Electrician. He has become the Great Programmer… Our past and destiny are inscribed in software code. And now, as all the world’s computers are wired together into one machine, we have been given the opportunity, or at least the temptation, to perfect the code.” Bullshit? I don’t think so. This is a good book, spoilt only by lack of imagination and willingness to push its deductions to a much more interesting and stranger conclusion. We are in the early stages of making changes to the way we work and live that will change us, as a species, forever, and not necessarily for the better. As such, we should look hard at what electrification did to society, and apply any lessons we learn to the immanent changes that utility computing is set to wreak upon us. Dom Collier
Toyota Culture is the latest in a series of books detailing how a small loom-making company in Japan became the world’s largest automobile manufacturer in the space of 80 years – including going through near bankruptcy in the depressed post-war years. In 1950, Eiji Toyoda visited a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan. What he learned from Ford’s mass production approach (Ford was manufacturing 8,000 vehicles a day at the time; Toyota, over the previous 13 years, had only managed 2,500) he then started to apply to his own family’s business. The lessons learned by Eiji Toyoda in Michigan helped plant the seeds of the philosophy that was finally laid out in The Toyota Way, the initial work in the series, of which Toyota Culture is the fourth. It’s worth noting now that despite having fewer than 40 pages, The Toyota Way took ten years to put together. Even then it was made clear that its lessons weren’t set in stone – this was a document only ever to be treated as a work in progress. As Toyoda noted: “If you write it down you will kill it.” It can be difficult, then, to assess the practical value of Toyota Culture as a guide to management. After all, implicit in the company’s philosophy is complete agreement with the assumption that reading about it isn’t going to help you emulate it. It’s a view that, like most managers, I’d endorse: whatever business you’re in, reading about how to do something is no substitute for learning by doing it. Nevertheless, Toyota Culture provides a fascinating window into what – to those of us in the West – can seem a particularly closed society and industrial system. The original Toyota Way lays out a corporate/behavioural framework of fourteen points. These are arranged into four separate blocks: philosophy; process; people; and problem solving. It’s on ‘people’, the third of these, that Toyota Culture focuses, based on three guiding principles: • ‘Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others’; • ‘Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy’; • ‘Respect your suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve’. Now, all of these may seem very much like common sense, but dig a little deeper and simplicity disappears. Any reader looking for easily-actionable insight here will only find
REVIEW TOYOTA CULTURE BY JEFFREY K LIKER
“If you write it down, you will kill it.” complexity. There’s also a creeping realisation that to study this material in the hope of duplicating any of Toyota’s phenomenal success is futile. Why? Because at the heart of Toyota’s approach is a belief that all decisions must be based on long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals. A laudable principle, but one which disqualifies most western businesses which need to meet quarterly targets in order to continue receiving the support of their shareholders and investors. Other, more specific conflicts between this over-arching philosophy and western sensibilities can be seen in the ‘people’ issues discussed. Take, for example, the chapter ‘Slow Promotions and Rewards for Teamwork’. This is the literal opposite to the western focus on rapid reward and fasttrack success for individual brilliance – the highflyer route to executive stardom. As Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota puts it: “Many [of our young executives] said they understood the Toyota Way fully. That’s totally wrong… I don’t think I have a full understanding even today and I have worked for the company for 43 years.” How many young executives setting out for a career in the US even understand the term ’43 years’, let alone sign up for it in the interests of ‘living the philosophy’? The overwhelming impression is that becoming a Toyota person seems almost vocational: “The highest level of development is commitment to Toyota, its values, and taking what is learned to family and the community.” As such, Toyota Culture is less like a business primer and more akin to a dissertation on God’s grace written by a renaissance monk and accompanied by a complex meditation
system for achieving or accessing greater understanding of it. As its authors admit, the Toyota Way is only part engineering and business science. The other part is pure belief: accepting the philosophy unquestioningly and living and expressing it as fact. That’s the biggest obstacle to getting real value out of this book. Despite protestations to the contrary by the authors of the Toyota Culture, the Toyota Way is very alien to the West, particularly the US but also increasingly in Europe. We do not accept our employers as our family, or introduce ourselves by the name of the business we work for before our own given and family names. The western tradition of individual identity over group identity is not easily overcome. At 560 pages, this is not a light read. As a detailed instruction on how to focus on better people and partner management it’s effectively useless: so much of the value in doing the things the Toyota Way comes from the other parts of the Toyota Way that simply defy emulation. That said, some of the Japanese terminology employed embodies potentially useful concepts: hansei: relentless reflection; kaizen: continuous improvement; Genchi Genbutso: ‘seeing for yourself’; heijunka: levelling the workload. Correctly understood and applied, over a lifetime or so, these deep ideas have the power to transform individuals and organisations. Ultimately though, if you’re looking for ways you can change your business for the better, then it’s probably best to start by looking closely at your own operations rather than losing yourself in the consolations of Toyota’s philosophy and culture. Ewen Sturgeon
REVIEW PRESENTATION ZEN BY GARR REYNOLDS
“Slides that can’t be delivered by anyone but you.” For a man whose online biography lists his top interests as “Zen in the arts, Zen in daily life, Buddhism, Jazz and Blues”, it’s appropriate that Garr Reynolds should kick off Presentation Zen with a freeform riff that encourages all of us to get in touch with our creative inner-beings. That this is backed-up by the seemingly un-Zen habit of dropping the names of as many Silicon Valley luminaries as possible only reinforces the impression that this book – an attempt to give prosaic PowerPoint a sheen of the spiritual – could only have been written in America. A Californian myself, I have a high tolerance for all things inner-truthy and empowering, but Presentation Zen pushes this a little too far even for my tastes. Nevertheless, Reynolds (author of the cult blog that shares the book’s name) is a popular figure in the online design community due to a core message that anyone who’s ever found themselves wanting to weep, scream, sleep (or simply crunch down on a cyanide molar) in the face of yet another tedious and identikit PowerPoint presentation will enthusiastically endorse. Today’s “normal” presentations, with their detailed slides and charts, are – preaches Reynolds – out of synch with the real ways in which people learn and communicate. This “normal” approach to presentation, instructs the Presentation-Master, can only cause “suffering” and so the pupil must learn to transcend normality in order to communicate “with more clarity, integrity, beauty and intelligence.” Quite.
With the self-empowerment mumbojumbo done, Reynolds thankfully cuts rapidly to the chase. He starts with borrowing some tips from the ever reliable Seth Godin: make slides that reinforce your words rather than which simply repeat them; avoid cheesy images (read ‘clip art’) in favour of resources such as istockphoto.com; and above all, keep things simple. So that’ll be no dissolves, spins or the other transitions beloved of the tyro PowerPoint jockey. Best of all is the advice to create a separate written handout document. It may seem like additional work, but it’ll keep you from feeling compelled to cram everything into your visuals: “Create a document,” urges Reynolds, “not a slideument.” It’s this firm belief that slides shouldn’t just repeat narrative that defines Reynolds’ Zen approach; a presentation should be so personal that your slides can’t be delivered by anyone else but you. To Reynolds, the most important thing is to tell a “good story… with an interesting, clear beginning; a provocative engaging middle; and a clear conclusion.” It’s also important that this story comes from the heart and is told in personal and natural language – less “optimise your synergies”, more “so Bob and I sat down and, after we realised we were both die-hard Spurs fans, he told me he was short on widgets and, lo-and-behold, I have a widget factory!” It’s about creating a show that your audience will remember, and in which everything should support the single-minded point that you and your story have come together to make.
So far, so sound, but it’s when this 240page book moves into practical examples of slide design that it exposes its biggest weakness. The advice given prior to this point is ultimately lightweight. The amount of sources and other books referenced in the (albeit incredibly attractively laid out) text highlight that this is all wisdom more curated than originated by the author. In short, there’s nothing really new here and it transpires that the book’s primary purpose is simply to present lavish example slides for its readers’ consideration. At first, this section showing complex and busy slides being simplified to their Zen essence is the juicy, sink your teeth into it meat of a particularly good before and after TV makeover show, but it soon becomes overkill. Hundreds of beautiful slides, all looking like ad campaigns, deploy fantastic imagery to make points such as “66% of Americans are obese” and “3.2% of Japanese are obese.” You can’t help but wonder if the Zen-loving Reynolds (who now lives and works in Japan) is subconsciously making a point about the materialistic culture he’s moved away from. He hasn’t moved that far, however. Previously employed by Apple, it’s in the direction of this most lauded of contemporary companies that Reynolds eventually points the reader. In a final compelling plea for us all “to be present” when we give presentations, he suggests that the best way to see a true guru of Silicon Valley and its new Presentation Zen in action is to watch Steve Jobs present on video on Apple.com. Fair enough, but the fact is that none of us will ever be in the position of launching a new iPod before an audience of avowed heroworshippers. For normal mortals, sometimes the boring charts are what’s been demanded of us and replacing the requested project plan with an image representing the subconscious urge to deliver ahead of schedule – while it might satisfy your inner Buddha – is unlikely to ever satisfy the client. Nevertheless, for all its pseudospirituality, Reynolds is engaging and his examples occasionally inspiring. Borrow it, certainly, but you probably don’t want to be paying the (distinctly worldly) asking price. Carter Jackson
Better Living 2.0 The creators of travel portal lastminute.com, Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox, have turned their attentions closer to home. Your home, to be precise. Their latest venture, mydeco.com, aims to become the one-stop shop for people decorating and furnishing their home. But is it any good? Whether you’re just looking for a new sofa or redecorating your entire home, mydeco can save you hours (if not days and weeks) trawling the high street looking for inspiration that fits your budget. It’s the very nature of this frustrating real world trawl that founder Brent Hoberman points to as highlighting the opportunity for mydeco in this space – the home furnishing market is incredibly fragmented, with even the largest companies owning less than a 20% share of the whole. In addition to a strong user proposition in aggregating all these retailers into a single site surrounded by complementary features and community, there’s also a solid proposition to retailers hoping to find the majority of the market in one place. In early March, after only a month into its beta launch, the site was home to an impressive 1,496,797 products from over 500 suppliers across a broad spectrum ranging from ‘highend’ retailers like Aram, Nest and Greenwich Village to the more affordable likes of Ikea, John Lewis and Argos. Multiple options for searching (by product, price, retailer, designer, colour and any user-generated tags) make it easy to quickly narrow down your choices and build up your personal portfolio of products. But mydeco is more than just a time-saver, and it’s more than just an intermediary. Not only does the site offer a state of the art 3D room-planning tool, it successfully encourages community and discussion around both brands and individual products. It even offers financial incentive for users to – essentially – do their own merchandising for the items available. The 3D room-planner allows users to construct their own rooms (to scale), decorate
them and then furnish them from a selection of (currently) over 20,000 real products. It’s a great way to work out what looks right as well as what fits your room and your budget. The site’s designers have also realised that for many users this may be too advanced and time-consuming, so a 2D option is offered based on simple uploading of a current photo of your room. The site also offers thousands of ‘ready made rooms’ to browse for inspiration – from celebrity-inspired boudoirs to five star hotel rooms and suggestions from leading interior designers. Further stickiness comes from editorial content worthy of pricey monthly magazine offerings and the presence of an insightful ‘style DNA’ tool assesses your personal style to suggest products you might like and to make connections between you and other people with similar tastes. It’s these connections into community that are at the heart of the site, making mydeco a credible play for the Facebook of interiors. Of course, it’s also made easy to share your room designs on the real Facebook or indeed on other networks. Most in synch with the ideals of web 2.0 and the new marketing, is the financial incentive offered to users who have the talent and the time to design rooms that help to sell the third party products. If someone buys a product after clicking through to it from a room design, then the designer receives 3% of the value,
paid straight into their PayPal account. It’s a similar (though infinitely more down to earth) mechanic to the one that sees the most talented creators of objects in the likes of Second Life thrive within the virtual economy. Although a number of other UK sites offer slices of similar functionality – designmyroom.com and ratemyroom.com for room planning and sharing, livingetc.com for editorial content and forums – none offer all of this in one place. And that’s the beauty of mydeco.com. IPC’s housetohome.co.uk comes close but its room planner is a big let down and the site feels quite flat (and web 1.0ish) in comparison. It’s this grasp of how things should be done properly these days that impresses most, particularly when the techniques and concepts are being used on a truly mass-market site rather just deployed for an audience of geeks. It’s a proposition that’s aimed at gaining – in the short term – a 2.5% share of the fragmented €18 billion UK home décor market and the US is next on the list. With the best beta on the block, heavyweight financial backing and an experienced management team behind it, mydeco looks set to dominate even through the credit crunch (with retailers likely to invest in intermediaries to increase customer acquisition). Definitely one to watch. Pipa Unsworth
“This is how it’s done properly these days.” 93
It couldn’t happen here… As the US-style online political campaigning discussed UpFront on page 8 becomes ever more the norm in the rest of the world, could the likes of the Obama Girl video happen here?
The paper “Politics, Policy and the Internet” issued by the Centre for Policy Studies this February, highlights the woeful state of the political web in the UK. The site of the British National Party has a greater market share than that of the three major parties and Gordon Brown, during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a less queried name on Google than those of the non-entities of the Big Brother house. Shocking? Yes, but no more so than the potential outcomes of an online push for our digital hearts and minds when the UK next goes to the polls. LBiQ prepares you for the worst. WebCameron 2.0 In pursuit of the female vote, and unconvinced that the ‘WebCameron’ branding of their website is delivering on the full potential of either the web or the commonly acknowledged marketing power of the stunningly cheap pun, the Tory party deploys an innovative ‘one to one interactive dialogue’ strategy targeted towards young women. Unfortunately, ignorance of wider online terminology means that female voters looking for the new “Cam Girls” site are exposed not to policy but rather to an endless vista of professionally horny housewives and hard-up students wanking wearily for gifts.
the business of actually winning electoral support with hot 24-7 Scrabulous action and the assiduous recruitment of long-lost school friends to their fearsome legions of vampires/ zombies/werewolves. Eventual low turnout at the polls is blamed on an unforeseen combination of early evening daylight and a subsequent full moon.
with a series of “Clegg Girl” clips. So unerotic is the name of this next possible leader of our once great nation that ‘Clegg Girl’ rapidly becomes a common derogatory term in Britain’s high streets and shopping centres. Serving as a synonym for ‘moose’, it eventually outlives memories of who that Nick Clegg bloke was in the first place.
Fear factor: 20/1
Fear factor: 10/1
Battlefield Search Made aware by a ten year old schoolgirl that searches under the term “Liberal Leader” are returning results either referring to his predecessor Menzies Campbell or to disgraced 60s MP Jeremy Thorpe, Nick Clegg adopts an aggressive search strategy. Time spent obsessing sweatily over Google AdWords and Analytics charts ultimately proves to be no substitute for obsessing over the formulation of policies which can be seen as remotely credible at a national rather than simply local level.
Digital election fatigue As all parties relentlessly bloat their YouTube channels 24-7 with 360 degree footage of even the most minor campaign activities, and as candidate blogs chatter to the counterpoint of incessant citizen-punditry, the need for any real effort towards responsible political reporting is replaced by the popular mass media’s luxuriation in shallow, gossipy commentary focused on the nature of the campaigning medium rather on policy itself. Following trends in America, where turn-out figures for presidential elections have fallen 15% since the first political mass media bombardment of 1960, a significant portion of the electorate fails to go to the polls. After all, pushing that ‘Vote Now!’ button on their daily paper’s website must have counted for something in the real world, mustn’t it?
Fear factor: 10/1
Fear factor: 50/1
Crush on Clegg Vexed to nightmare by the thought of Labour’s spin doctors co-opting the “Obama Girl” phenomenon to create an internetshagging viral phenomenon set to the music of Boney M, Nick Clegg’s team target YouTube
Digital Canvassing Gordon Brown’s Labour Party abandons the age-old practice of door-to-door canvassing in favour of an intimate 21st century Facebookcentric approach. Compelled to campaign via their profiles, candidates manage to confuse
“Bloating YouTube 24-7 with 360 degree campaign content.”
Fear Factor: Evens
Trading on change No one ever said Google was altruistic. LBiQ asks why changes in the search giant’s trademark policies are causing such consternation in the UK. The web may have the potential to unite the world as a single ‘global village’, but differences between the policies and legal systems applied to its villagers based on where they live always gets in the way. Markets evolve at different rates and, as Google has found recently in the UK, bringing them into line inevitably causes upset. Since 2004, American and Canadian companies have been allowed to bid through Google’s AdWords system on the names (and other trademarks) of their competitors in order to use these as ‘triggers’ for their own adverts. They can’t, however, use these trademarks in the ads themselves. For example, a search for “Coca-Cola” will never result in an ad boasting “9/10 consumers prefer Pepsi to Coke”, but there’d be no problem if it simply asked users to “Take the Pepsi Challenge”. It’s such a system that’s just been announced in the UK, where now – if an advertiser wishes to complain about use of their trademarks as trigger terms for AdWords – Google will no longer investigate
and take action on their behalf. Terms such as ‘bloodbath’ have been thrown around and speculation has increased as to whether or not Google intends to move into the commerce aggregation and comparison space with a purchase of Expedia. After all, it’s third party comparison sites that, alongside affiliate marketers, seem to have the most to gain from this new access to trademark terms. Certainly it seems that brands will now be obliged to invest far greater sums in buying their own trademarks as a hygiene factor in brand protection. Strangest of all though, are the industry voices seemingly outraged at Google making what can only be described as an incredibly astute move in the face of declining clicks for paid search ads and a general downturn in the global economy as a whole. More impressive still (as court cases in the US are currently highlighting) is Google’s positioning of itself as simply an intermediary service. Much like the ISPs who – quite rightly – don’t believe that they should be held legally responsible by the scared and lumbering likes of the music
industry for policing their users’ traffic, Google is simply asserting its right to concentrate on and further develop its core business of advertising. They’re not the ones using third party trademarks; they’re simply providing the system that allows others to bid on them. Disruptive innovation is what the web does – there is no status quo. Those in the UK outraged by Google’s latest actions would do better to channel their energy into changing their businesses to take advantage of them, rather than acting like so many village elders unwilling to let go of past tradition. When putting together presentations on the way that major brands have latched onto web 2.0 for better or worse over the last couple of years, it’s easy to point the bad finger at Wal-Mart. With a history that includes a botched ownbrand social network for teens, the ill-advised fake Walmarting Across America blog and a Facebook group that had to be closed when it became a forum for anti-brand sentiments, they’re regularly used as a classic example of an old school, mass-market real-world brand who just don’t ‘get it’.
Straight Back on the Horse With its previous social media efforts meeting only mockery, Wal-Mart’s new Checkout blog is a triumph – albeit of the banal. Most recently out of the stalls is the Checkout blog, launched in December last year. Rather than taking the advice of a post on wired. com’s blog suggesting that Wal-Mart might as well compound its marketing mistakes by “decorating their stores with baby seal fur and infant skeletons,” Checkout provides an unmoderated blogging platform for a number of Wal-Mart product buyers. That these are real people is indisputable, and that they find the time to keep posting in
the face of a general lack of response is laudable. The problem is that that the personal stories told are quite simply boring. They’d certainly never find themselves used (in another cliché of the way agencies tell you to use blogs) as part of a recruitment campaign. Nor are the bloggers’ comments and personalities integrated into the departments they represent on Wal-Mart’s main commerce site. Nevertheless, although there’s every chance that the blog won’t see out the year in its
present incarnation, you have to hand it to WalMart. Every time they fall, they get straight back on the horse, even when that web 2.0 horse is one that you don’t ride, rather (if you’re a brand) it’s actually riding you. With persistence like this, don’t be surprised if at some time in the near future Wal-Mart finally makes new marketing techniques work – a triumph which will be all the sweeter for the public humiliations along the way. In the meantime, though, you can add a new slide to that “How not to do it” presentation of yours.
THE WRAPTV EDITORIAL
P A W G N LIVI It’s not a word you see in print any more, but there it was in LinkedIn’s announcement of a new multi-language mobile site. Glaring and clutching from the page – pulling the reader back into the plague pit of 2000. Three letters of hell: WAP. But, horrific as it sounds, WAP’s still how most users of the mobile web get themselves online. So, despite its image problems, WAP’s not dead yet – just take care to never speak its name, whether that’s in a mirror after midnight or a press release in the age of the iPhone.
From a young cleric in the 22nd row… Gary Gygax, the father of modern role-playing died this March. LBiQ assesses his legacy in the age of the MMORPG.
As someone who spent much of the early 80s nursing an unhealthy Dungeons & Dragons habit, it was only natural that the death of the archetypical role playing game’s co-creator Gary Gygax would send me to the blogosphere for recollections of the ultimate dungeon master. Unsurprisingly, with D&D indebted MMORPG World of Warcraft grabbing headlines in January with its achievement of 10 million subscribers, many obituary writers made a link between the two games. To me, it’s a link that would probably have had Gygax – a man who truly believed that “the pictures were better on the radio” – turning in his all too recent grave. “There’s no intimacy,” he said of online role-playing games in 2005. It’s the engagement of the imagination through the tabletop role-playing games of the 70s on which most of Gygax’s post-mortem hagiography focuses. A constant theme is that of the role-playing geeks of the era taking their expanded imagination away from dice and paper and out into the burgeoning field of home computing. The common thread is very much one of “the cool kids may have kicked sand in their faces, but now the geeks have inherited the earth.” It’s surprising, though, that Wired editor Adam Rogers (a shameless self-declared 21st century geek) writing on Gygax in the New York Times goes as far as to say that “On that foundation of role-playing and polyhedral dice [Gygax] constructed the social and intellectual structure of our world.” Rogers’ thesis is simplistic. Dungeons & Dragons came along at just the right time to influence the generation of geeks who built the internet and worldwide web. To
“The social web is little more than D&D without the dragon-slaying.” him, the current social web – millions of interconnected players, each with their own avatar – is little more than D&D without the dragon slaying. It seems like an outrageous claim to make, but step down the rhetoric and the point holds true. The crossover between the fantasy role-playing demographic and that of those who helped grow the modern infrastructure of the web seems undisputed. But what of Gygax’s more obvious legacy? Currently, Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing phenomenon World of Warcraft is to the MMORPG market what D&D was to role-playing in the 70s – an uncontested market leader. In the top 10 of massively multiplayer online games worldwide, WoW has more subscribers than the rest of those on the leader-board put together. World of Warcraft now even has a role – as D&D once did – as a universally recognisable cultural touchstone of geek gaming culture: Toyota sells cars in the US with an advert ‘set’ machinima-style in the game’s environment; it’s advertised by ironic 80s icons such as William Shatner and Mr. T; and it’s even been parodied at length in cult animated show South Park (“These kids have no lives!” exclaims a
Blizzard Entertainment executive as the heroes immerse themselves in the game). The question to ask, then, is whether the 10 million players currently engaged in campaigns across WoW’s fantasy land of Azeroth represent a new breed of geeks who will emerge from their bedrooms to change the landscape of connected computing once again? The answer is, sadly, almost certainly not. Having tried as hard as I possibly could to enjoy Warcraft on two separate occasions, I find myself siding with the master – however good the pictures, they were always better in your head. The message of South Park’s “Make Love, Not Warcraft” episode holds true: these games are massive time sinks and only gain traction among those with little else going on in their free time. It appears that the key effect of replacing the human Dungeon Master with computer intelligence is that there’s now no responsible geek at the head of the table to ensure that gaming only happens around homework and the other demands of real life. To this jaded view, the 10 million players of Warcraft, around half of whom are concentrated in Asia, don’t so much represent the coming of a new wave of world-changing geeks as they do a continued contribution to the planet’s obesity problem. In the 70s and early 80s imagination was often the only outlet for creativity. Now with the web enabling new and more powerful potential for creativity through a variety of channels, to use this purely for indulging fantasy seems like the worst kind of waste. The real leaders of the next wave are those playing with the web, not those just playing on it.
Taurus Rising Hang in there, Taurus! Your steadfast attributes of patience and determination may yet pay off when it comes to mobile – even though the gathering shades of recession lengthen above us. Despite the inevitable marketing budget squeeze (long foreshadowed by the all-too-predictable dominance of cockney constellations Castor and Pollux in the house of web 2.0) a valid, desirable and valuable mobile internet may now be almost with us. What a long, strange and frustrating trip it’s been for you so far, Taurus! The technology just wasn’t there, was it? And neither was the audience. The dark orbit of the malefic moon of Hype and the hungry black hole of the dot-com bust were unforeseen by many industry astrologers. You know how it goes, my bullish one – the value of predictions may go down as well as up. But now I see a more propitious alignment in your mobile stars. Google is ascendant in all your houses, Apple is rising and – although many network operators still remain retrograde in Uranus – an emphatic aspect of Tariff Diminished shows that your steadfast attitude may finally be rewarded with the mobile internet you deserve.
Take heed though, bold Taurus! When it comes to marketing through this channel, you probably don’t want to put your faith in the signs that false prophets read in their tea leaves, their greasy burger-wrappers and their pizza crusts. Trust instead in the evidence of guru-planet Jupiter and surrender to the gravity of its satellites, Forrester and Gartner. People want content, not marketing junk, and you need to keep these needs in mind – it won’t necessarily be easy and it may still be a good five years out. I’ve read your chart, Taurus, and you need to take off the Minotaur mask right now. Take it off and act like a human being – think
about what people really want from mobile, and how they’re actually using the channel at the moment. Do this and all signs suggest that, in return, Venus, your planetary ruler will reward you over the long term. The stars speak to me, and they’re shouting at you: integrate realistic mobile strategies through all your other channels as soon as you can; and make sure that you don’t just use our handsets to talk to us, use them to listen to what we want as well. We astrologers call this conjunction of brand and consumer ‘a conversation’. It’s what our phones are actually for. Now cross my palm with silver, fear death by advertising and put those horns away.
Photography and illustration: Warren Hutchinson, Stephen Barber, Andy Tyler, Chloe Holder, Kate Shaw, Mark Weaver, Robin Whyler, Serge Seidlitz. Thanks: Joseph Olewitz, Chris Enright, Mira Leytes, Jacob Cohen, Rob Holzer, Jakob Daschek, Ewen Sturgeon, Caroline McGuckian, Rosalie Kurton. Direction: Walter E. Kurtz.