DY REEADY EA ADY READY RRRE DY S T E ADY, GO! S T EADY, G O ! STEA DY, G O! STEADY, G O STEADY, GO!!
T H I N K Q UA R T E R LY
T H I N K Q UA R T E R LY The SPEED Issue
06 THINK SPEED
Speed. In the amount of time it takes you to read this note, roughly 382 Android phones will be activated; more than 250,000 words will be written on Blogger; and 48 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube. The world is moving fast – faster than ever before – and we are all along for the ride. Technologies are getting quicker, affording us instant access and split-second connections. As Moore’s law prophesied, this change is happening at an exponential rate. At the same time, consumer expectations are rising as we learn to take speed for granted. Today’s email is tomorrow’s snail mail. We might even have found something faster than the speed of light (see page 46). In our hyper-real-time world, nanoseconds matter. This is forcing us all to question old assumptions. How will we respond to consumer expectations as the demand for instant access to everything intensifies? How will we keep pace in a world that moves at web speed? No one is more obsessed with speed than Google. It’s why we think of ourselves as one of the engines of the internet. The Speed issue of Think Quarterly is about this acceleration of everything – what is changing and how it works, why it matters and when it doesn’t. Google’s Urs Hoelzle shares our efforts to make things faster, while Astro Teller dreams about the amazing inventions these improvements will unleash. Paul Gunning, CEO of Tribal DDB Worldwide, talks about the rise of real-time marketing. And writer Jeff Jarvis wonders if we’re really that fast after all. We hope you enjoy the issue. Our aim is to get you excited for what’s coming, because it’ll be here before you know it.
Margo Georgiadis Vice President of American Operations, Google
EXECUTIVE INSIGHT: MARTY ST. GEORGE by Ray Rogers
08 THINK SPEED
TECHNO TAKE-UP: A DATA VISUALIZATION
by Frank Stephenson
THE GOOGLE GOSPEL OF SPEED
NOT SO FAST
by urs hoelzle
by Jeff Jarvis
FIRST IN, FIRST OUT
by cyrus Shahrad
by Kristen Gil
THE LIGHT FANTASTIC by matt Bochenski
THE HI-TECH TORTOISE
SPEED OF DREAMS
by leslie Berlin
by Astro teller
THE SLOW MANIFESTO
BRANDING IN MIND
HTML5... 4... 3... 2... 1... GO!
by Jo miller
by tjaco Walvis
by caroline mccarthy
RECODING THE CLASSROOM by Andrea Kurland
THE INSIDER by Paul Gunning
Think Quarterly represents the collective mindspace of journalists, academics, experts, and industry leaders from around the world. Some are Google’s homegrown visionaries. Others lend their outside perspectives. All tell stories that you won’t ﬁnd anywhere else.
Urs Hoelzle was one of Google’s ﬁrst 10 employees. Now he serves as Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure, and has the distinction of being a Google Fellow. Urs oversees the design and operation of Google’s hardware infrastructure as well as the development of the services and tools used by the company’s engineers. Fingers point to him as the reason there are so many dogs allowed to sit under their owners’ desks at work. Urs evangelizes about Google’s Gospel of Speed on page 20.
Jeﬀ Jarvis is the author of the books Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live and What Would Google Do? He directs the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, blogs at Buzzmachine.com, tweets at @jeﬀjarvis, and can be found on Google+ at +Jeﬀ Jarvis. He talks so fast that even New Yorkers have trouble keeping up, and his own grandmother complained that she couldn’t understand him. Jeﬀ questions whether we’re really as fast as we think we are on page 28.
10 THINK SPEED
A Googler since 2007, Kristen Gil leads the Business operations and Strategy team, which aims to help Google innovate at scale by focusing on global resource allocation, emerging business strategy, internal operations improvement, and organization design. Previously, she was a consultant at mcKinsey & co. She is currently based in the Bay Area with her husband and two children, but grew up all over the uS and internationally as an ‘Army brat.’ Kristen explains how Google is recapturing its start-up speed on page 40.
Jo miller is an emmy-award winning writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. She also helped write The Daily Show’s best-selling Earth: The Book, which makes a lovely holiday present for grandparents and anyone else who enjoys naked pictures of larry King. She was born and raised in the American South, where green beans take three hours to cook and nineteenth-century scientific discoveries still struggle to find widespread acceptance, so she knows a thing or two about slowness. Jo rediscovers a lost manifesto extolling the virtues of slow on page 48.
Dr. Astro Teller is Google’s Director of New Projects, working to help the company explore potential new business areas that could impact billions of people. He has successfully founded ﬁve companies, including BodyMedia, SANDbOX AD and Cerebellum Capital, and holds numerous US patents related to his work in hardware and software technology. He has a PhD in artiﬁcial intelligence, moonlights as a novelist and screenwriter, and makes a mean margarita. Astro dares us to dream big on page 56.
Paul Gunning is the ceo of tribal DDB Worldwide, leading the agency’s network of more than 60 oﬃces across the world, and Global chief Digital oﬃcer of DDB Group. he has steered online advertising strategies for major clients including mcDonald’s, Volkswagen, and Pfizer. Paul lives life in the fast lane; he only sleeps four hours a night, carries three different mobile devices, and can type on his BlackBerry while walking without needing to look up. Paul welcomes us to the real-time marketing revolution on page 70.
contact email@example.com the articles appearing within this publication reﬂect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team. thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly © Google 2012 11
...move fast a take advant something.../ MARTY ST. GEORGE 12 THINK SPEED
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14 THINK SPEED
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The first non-stop transatlantic flight â€“ from Newfoundland to Ireland â€“ took place from June 14-15 1919, and took 16 hours and 27 minutes.1
uly 2011, LA. A section of Interstate 405, the busiest stretch of highway in one of the world’s busiest cities, is about to be closed as part of a billion-dollar reconstruction project. The work is going to take 10 days and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been on local radio warning that the result will be an “absolute nightmare” for traffic. The press have dubbed it ‘Carmageddon.’ Angelenos prepare for the worst. But where most buckled up for disaster, one business saw a unique marketing opportunity – if it acted fast. In an inspired move, low-cost airliner JetBlue put on two round-trip flights from Long Beach to Burbank, CA (distance: Roughly 35 miles), passing serenely over the mayhem on the 405 beneath. Billed as a ‘planepool,’ the flights took 45 minutes and seats sold out in under four hours. In a further coup, JetBlue offered 40 percent off a trip to Vegas, inviting commuters to forget the traffic altogether.
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“The whole thing from the first idea to the day that we actually did the flights took a week,” reveals Marty St. George. The moral of the story? “When we can move fast and take advantage of something, we’ll do it.” St. George, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Commercial, is the man tasked with answering a question posed by JetBlue CEO David Barger as the company grew to encompass some 14,000 crewmembers: ‘How do we stay small as we get big?’ Because only by staying small and keeping nimble can JetBlue maintain its identity – and safeguard its soul. By his own admission, St. George is still figuring out the answer, but he knows that technology – especially social media – has a major part to play. “One of the things that has been a factor in our pursuit and embrace of social media is our customer base,” he notes. “JetBlue has a customer base that skews more affluent, younger, and much more tech-savvy than the traditional airline.” Staying in constant communication with those customers has been a key marketing strategy ever since St. George came to the brand in 2006, when it was struggling in the midst of a downturn. “As we looked to recover from that, we had a multimedia effort, trying to talk to our customers and make things better.” In addition to a traditional media assault (including full-page ads in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal), the company made use of emerging social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, and “a pretty aggressive” YouTube strategy, to get instant feedback about what was or wasn’t working. “We actually love the comments section on YouTube – we love to see what our customers say about us,” St. George says. What they learned was that “there’s an awful lot of passion about the airline space among customers, and also a lot of passion about JetBlue. So as we started engaging with our customers and listening to them, we recognized that social media represented a completely unexpected opportunity to build our brand image.” It was a world away from traditional media campaigns. “If you think about what marketing has been like for the last 30 years, it has been 90 percent a one-way endeavor – brands would talk to customers but you didn’t have that direct connection,” explains St. George. “Look at a 30-second or 60-second TV commercial: Sometimes it’s hard to get ideas across. But on our YouTube channel, we can put out a two-minute video and have customers watch it to the very end. If you have engaging content, you’re providing real value.” On any given workday, St. George can be spotted on Twitter at least half a dozen times, and he’s just as likely to be tweeting about ice hockey as the airline. “I follow
other senior marketing leaders who only talk about their company and I’m not as engaged with some of those feeds as I am with people who talk about everything,” he says. St. George also stays connected through Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Indeed, evidence of his enthusiasm for social media comes minutes after our chat finishes. @martysg: ‘Interviewed about speed and social media today: The writer asked me if I tweeted yet and embarrassed to say I had not #EatMyOwnDogFood.’ It’s that sort of real-time response that allows the company to manage customer relations in a way that would have been unheard of just a few years back. “We have a brand that was founded 12 years ago with the mission statement of ‘bringing humanity back to air travel.’ The most important word in that sentence is ‘humanity.’ What we recognized in social media was that we were doing a great job of inadvertently and unexpectedly humanizing our brand on a one-to-one level with customers who really wanted to engage with us. “It goes from really high-level issues to really micro ones,” he continues – such as learning instantaneously via a customer tweet when the company’s live TV is out on any given flight. “But it’s not just Twitter,” he adds. “It’s things being posted on Facebook. I see pictures on Picasa of a plane with condensation on the window… I’m learning stuff constantly about my brand.” All this data feeds back into the business in a virtuous cycle, making JetBlue more adaptable, more focused, and, of course, faster. “Social media just makes it so much easier for customers to give us feedback,” explains
“We actually love the comments section on YouTube – we love to see what our customers say about us.”
St. George. “Ten years ago, we had a slip of paper on the desk with the address of customer relations on it. Today, I just check [for feedback] on Facebook or Twitter, and as a brand I can interpret that, act on it, and get the feedback to my frontline people much, much faster.” That speed matters in a company that has 100,000 résumés on file but only hires around 1,200 people a year. “We want to make sure that the people we bring in recognize that they made it through a very exacting filter, and one of the things they were hired for is their ability to actually deliver the brand and be brand ambassadors,” reveals St. George. “If we can’t get the right people up front, we absolutely will not be able to stay small as we get big. “Every single member goes through orientation,” he continues. “And our CEO goes to nine out of 10 orientations personally. He does a module and introduces himself to all of the crewmembers. To a certain extent, it’s like he’s passing the mantle on to them. We’re telling them: ‘You guys are the brand.’” That doesn’t mean every single crewmember works out, however. For all the advantages of the brand’s social media activity over the past four years, JetBlue experienced the flipside of the phenomenon on August 9, 2010, when flight attendant Steven Slater flipped out after an exchange with a passenger. He grabbed a bottle of beer from the service cart and deplaned via the emergency evacuation slide – after declaring over the PA system, “I’m done!” The event went viral, with Slater becoming a cultural touchstone for overworked and exasperated employees across the country. JetBlue didn’t take the incident lightly – but the company balanced the desire to respond rapidly with the patience required to gather all the facts. Here, for once, speed took a back seat, reflecting the tension inherent in crisis management: Deal with the problem quickly but effectively. Internally, recalls St. George, talk within the company focused around the five values integral to the brand: Safety, Caring, Integrity, Fun, and Passion. “All 13,000 crewmembers had the same filter to review the issue. As we learned the details of what happened, the immediate conversation went to the values: He clearly violated the Safety value and the Integrity value and probably violated the Caring value.” It’s that latter value that matters most to St. George. This, after all, is an industry in which customers count above all else. “If you don’t like customers, you’re in the wrong business,” he concludes, “because the airline business is fundamentally a service business.” Having neatly summed up the essence of social, St. George has to fly
Marty St. George Unvital Statistics
Early in 2011, a trend in ‘speed rapping’ videos took off on YouTube, with one of the most popular videos pulling in over a million views in a single day.2
18 THINK SPEED
What is your earliest memory?
What do you want that you can’t have?
A very large trust fund.
was when I flew 5,000 miles to attend a meeting – only after landing did I realize the meeting was actually scheduled for the day before.
What is your biggest failure?
When did you last let yourself go?
Differential equations – I could be the only person to get an engineering degree from MIT without passing that class.
1992. I think it was a Friday.
Which piece of music alters your state of mind?
What are you searching for?
I think in most of the Western world, enough is actually too much.
Anything by The Clash, but especially their first album.
Brand apostles for JetBlue who want to come help us deliver the brand promise.
When was your last moment of clarity?
When were you last surprised?
Getting on a trolley with my mom at Ashmont Station in Dorchester, MA – I was four or five. What’s your signature dish?
Diet Coke with lime.
The moment just before I started answering these questions. What does success look like to you?
Finally seeing the New Canaan High freshman field hockey team win a game! What do you want to be when you’re older?
When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last June – I’d been waiting 39 years! What is your greatest extravagance?
Electronic gadgets: Most recently my Squeezebox clock radio. Who is your inspiration?
The last time I tweeted from church.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My job: I’m excited to go to work every day. Well, most days... If you had to stay in one place, where would it be?
London, as long as my family could be there with me. What do you see in the mirror?
My father. My wife: Her job is much harder than mine is.
Healthy and surrounded by family. When did you last feel ashamed?
How much is enough?
What was your greatest mistake?
I don’t have enough time to mention them all, but my most embarrassing mistake
Tell us a joke.
In honor of the ‘Speed’ theme, here’s a joke: ‘A. To prove particles can travel faster than light Q. Why did the neutrino cross the road?’
...we don’t p stopping un web is instan URS HOELZLE 20 THINK SPEED
plan on ntil the nt.../25 21
Seventy-three percent of mobile internet users have encountered a website that was too slow to load.3
22 THINK SPEED
ick a query, any query. ‘Weather, New York City.’ ‘Nineteenthcentury Russian literature.’ ‘When is the 2012 Super Bowl?’ Now type it into a Google search box. As you type, we predict the rest of your query, comb through billions of web pages, rank the sites, images, videos, and products we find, and present you with the very best results. The entire process takes, in many cases, less than a tenth of a second – it’s practically instant.
If it isn’t, we’ll suffer. Our research shows that if search results are slowed by even a fraction of a second, people search less (seriously: A 400ms delay leads to a 0.44 percent drop in search volume, data fans). And this impatience isn’t just limited to search: four out of five internet users won’t bother waiting if a video stalls while loading – they’ll simply click away. But even though the human attention span has become remarkably fickle, much of the web remains slow. The average web page takes 4.9 seconds to load – in a world where fractions of a second count, that’s an eternity. The web has become a critical hub
for politics, schools, and entertainment. Every business is a digital business; large or small, local or multinational. So why is it okay for a web page to take five seconds to load? There are 245 million internet users in the US, and if every one of them has to wait five seconds, we just wasted nearly 39 years of their time. ‘Fast is better than slow’ has been a Google mantra since our early days, and it’s more important now than ever. The internet is the engine of growth and innovation, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure that it’s more Formula 1 than Soap Box Derby. Speed isn’t just a feature, it’s the feature.
‘Fast is better than slow’ is a cornerstone of Google’s philosophy. Here, search guru and SVP of Infrastructure Urs Hoelzle, explains why. Words by
Urs Hoelzle Adam Simpson
We have one simple rule to support this Gospel of Speed: Don’t launch features that slow us down. You might invent a great new feature, but if it slows down search, you have to either forget it, fix it, or come up with another change that more than offsets the slowdown. We have what we call a ‘fixed latency budget,’ which is sort of like a family budget. If you want to go on a nicer vacation but your budget doesn’t stretch, you need to cut back somewhere else. This simple concept drives legions of Google engineers and product managers to do some pretty amazing things. It’s why, when you do a Google search from some remote corner of the world, your results are most likely served to you from nearby computers. We work to cache data in local facilities, with the objective of making Google nearly as fast in San José, Argentina, or San José, Costa Rica, as it is in San José, California. It’s why we have live performance dashboards on big screens in many of our engineering offices, so that teams can see 24 THINK SPEED
“The internet is the engine of growth and innovation, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure that it’s more Formula 1 than Soap Box Derby. Speed isn’t just a feature, it’s the feature.”
latency levels across our services. It’s why, a few years ago, when we failed to live up to our principles and things started to slow down, we called ‘Code Yellow!’ and directed engineers and product managers on major product teams to drop what they were doing and work on making stuff faster. Speed is simply part of our engineering culture. Of course, it doesn’t really matter how fast search is if, when you click on a result, you immediately move back into the slow lane. That’s why we invest so much in helping the rest of the web speed up, too. Google Analytics measures a site’s speed and how it impacts engagement. We’re spearheading Page Speed, an opensource project that helps webmasters speed up their sites – it can even re-write pages to boost performance. We’re also experimenting with a Page Speed Service that automatically accelerates page loads without any code changes required. Just route your page through the service and it gets faster.
“At Google, we don’t plan on stopping until the web is instant, so that when you click on a link the site loads immediately, or a video starts without delay. What amazing things could happen then?”
When Edmunds, a leading car review destination, re-engineered its insideline. com site to reduce load times from nine seconds to 1.4 seconds, ad revenue increased three percent, and page views-per-session went up 17 percent. When Shopzilla dropped latency from seven seconds to two, revenue went up seven-12 percent and page views jumped 25 percent. (By the way, they reduced their hardware costs by 50 percent.) When you speed up service, people become more engaged – and when people become more engaged, they click and buy more. Even so, we need to set our expectations higher. At Google, we don’t plan on stopping until the web is instant, so that when you click on a link the site loads immediately, and when you play a video it starts without delay. What amazing things could happen then? What else could be invented? I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that we want to get to that future, fast 25
Viral Velocity ARTWORK by
26 THINK SPEED
28 THINK SPEED
Not So Fast ccepted wisdom has it that internet time moves quickly; that we are living through change at an unparalleled pace; that our modern minutes are but 10 or 20 seconds long. But what if our progress is not as speedy as it seems? What if we are only at the bare beginning of the disruption now underway? Consider Gutenberg time. The printed book did not begin to take on its own form until 50 years after its invention.
At first, printers mimicked scribes, with fonts designed to look like handwriting, while printing itself was promoted as automated writing. “They appear not to have perceived the printed book as a fundamentally different form,” writes Leah Marcus in her essay Cyberspace Renaissance, “but rather as a manuscript book that could be produced with greater speed and convenience.” They simply didn’t see the possibilities. Nor do today’s media companies – not fully, not yet. Look at how they’re using the web and new platforms such as the tablet. They’re still attempting to replicate legacy forms, content, business models, industrial structures, and control: Old wine in new casks. Newspapers, magazines, and books all remain recognizable as such online. Just as the form of the book didn’t evolve quickly, neither did society around it. Elizabeth Eisenstein, author of the definitive work on Gutenberg’s impact, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change,
writes, “One must wait a full century after Gutenberg before the outlines of new world pictures begin to emerge into view.” John Naughton, a columnist for the Observer in London, asks us to imagine we are pollsters in 1472, 17 years after the first printed Bibles (we are only about that far away from the introduction of the commercial web ourselves). On a bridge in Mainz, we ask citizens how likely they think it will be that Gutenberg’s invention could: a. Undermine the authority of the Catholic Church b. Power the Reformation c. Enable the rise of modern science d. Create entirely new social classes and professions e. Change our conceptions of ‘childhood’ as a protected early period in a person’s life “Printing did indeed have all these effects,” Naughton states, “but there was
It feels like the internet has made us faster than ever, but are we in fact lagging behind the opportunities presented by technology? Words by
Jeff Jarvis |
no way that anyone in 1472 in Mainz (or anywhere else for that matter) could have known how profound its impact would be.” The internet, I believe, could prove to be every bit as disruptive as the printing press, reshaping not just media – for the internet is much more than a medium – but almost every industry and social institution. Of course, there’s no way to know that for sure. Dan Gardner’s book Future Babble argues that expert predictions are uniformly worthless. But then, the very idea of an expert on the future is absurd. Still, we must try to imagine the edges of possibility so we can make better strategic decisions in business, technology, policy, and education. If we assume that the current disruption has already occurred at broadband speed – and so we must be nearly through it – then we will plan based on what we see around us now. But if instead we assume that ‘we ain’t seen nothin’ yet,’ then we will seek out greater disruption and unforeseen opportunities. We will protect flexibility, invention, and imagination so we may pivot as we see the future’s true shape emerge. Indeed, we may want to hasten change. In a 1998 Rand Corporation paper, The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead, James Dewar argues that our information age will be marked by unintended consequences, so the sooner we recognize, embrace, and adapt to them, the better. The wise course then is not to try to forestall change (to slow or stop it through regulation), but to accelerate it through openness and investment. So imagine that change. Start with the idea that technology leads to efficiency over growth in numerous industries. See retail: Drive down a commercial highway in America and you will pass numerous empty big-store boxes that don’t seem like they’ll ever be filled. Chain retail – invented only a century ago by The Great A&P – appears to be losing to the efficiency of internet sales and consolidated distribution. Many companies are unable to withstand the pricing transparency the net affords or bear the cost of redundant staff, real estate, and inventory. The entire supply chain is upended by disruptors from Amazon to Kickstarter.
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In the delivery industry, postal services in many countries are facing devastating shrinkage as email and social communication call into question the very notion of a letter; as transactions become too inefficient and expensive to conduct on paper, as marketing finally shifts from mass mailing to targeted relevance. Yet communication flourishes.
“The wise course is not to try to forestall change (to slow or stop it through regulation), but to accelerate it through openness and investment.”
Newspapers and magazines are struggling to adjust to a new media economy built on abundance rather than control of scarce time or space. Now news is beginning to mimic the end-to-end architecture of the net as witnesses share what they see with the world. Journalists must ask how they can continue to add value to an information flow that no longer relies solely upon them.
Health, design, marketing, finance, manufacturing, insurance, energy… Every one of these sectors is just beginning to witness the upheaval the net brings. Government is already being disrupted, of course. Wikileaks demonstrates the folly of secrecy. The Arab Spring is unseating dictators. Icelanders are rebuilding their economically wrecked society by rewriting their constitution via Facebook comments. But I wonder whether something even bigger is afoot: Will we rethink even our notion of nations and thus of societies? Does the net enable us to make new societies that cut across boundaries? I wonder whether that is a lesson of the hashtag revolt, #occupywallstreet; that institutions – in which we have less and less trust – are replaced by networks; that society, too, begins to mimic the architecture of the net. Perhaps I’m going too far. But then again, perhaps I’m not going far enough. A group of academics at the University of Southern Denmark argues that we are emerging from the other side of what they call ‘the Gutenberg parenthesis.’ Before Gutenberg, knowledge was passed mouth-to-mouth, scribe-to-scribe, changing along the way with little sense of authorship. Inside the parenthesis, with the press, knowledge became linear, permanent, more a product than a process, with clear ownership. More than five centuries later, they say we are emerging from the other side of the parenthesis. Now knowledge is again passed along, remixed as it goes, with less sense of ownership: It’s process over product. In his upcoming book Too Big to Know, David Weinberger sketches a vision of knowledge that is too big for libraries, institutions, or our heads. “Knowledge is now the property of the network,” he writes. “The smartest person in the room is the room itself.” This change in our mental map of information affects our cognition of our world, the Danish academics argue. So more is changing than merely industries and institutions. Our social norms and societies are up for grabs. How we understand the world around us is evolving, and change that profound doesn’t happen quickly
By 2020 we will be connecting at speeds of 1GB/sec. Thatâ€™s 500 times faster than current speeds in the US.4
Frank Stephenson designed the Ferrari F430, Maserati MC12 and the 2001 MINI. Now Design Director at UK supercar manufacturer McLaren Automotive, he shares the ideas, trends, and technologies driving his thinking. 32 THINK SPEED
When I was in the Caribbean a couple of years ago I fell in love with a sailfish. I bought one, got it taxidermied, then sent it down to the Formula 1 department and had it painted like a McLaren racecar. But before we did that we scanned it for data. We found that the scales create little vortexes of air so that water doesn’t touch the fish when it’s moving at speed – it just runs over a boundary of air and the vortexes pull the fish forward like in suction. We can use that for the areas around the duct on the car, where we have to pull in a lot of air. That procedure has never been ‘invented,’ yet it’s already out there in nature.
About seven or eight years ago, people started asking whether hybrid or hydrogen was going to be the new fuel technology. But there’s something dark here – there are many small companies that have built hydrogen and air compressor engines and all the prototypes have been bought by major companies, which have kept them secret.
We’re connected to a lot of companies around the world whose only objective is to expose us to new materials, whether it’s a new fabric, alloy, plastic or rubber. Our role is to work out how we can use these materials – is it going to be beneficial to us?
You get people who criticize McLaren for having no purpose other than to satisfy the desire to have something unnecessarily superior. But the whole point is to filter the technology down. We make a hypercar, a supercar and a sports car. The hypercar uses a carbon fiber tub that used to cost $160,000. In the SLR we got it down to $50,000. For the 12C it was $10,000, so more people are getting the benefits.
Last Christmas I went to a company in London that is developing holographic technology. I’m sitting on this couch and a guy and a girl start doing a dance. This goes on for about three minutes, then the guy from the company asks, “Which one is real and who’s the fake?” I was like, “What?!” The lights were on and they were indistinguishable. I was blown out of my mind.
The traditional way of designing has been to take a piece of paper and draw with fast pen sketches, but a lot of students these days use digital
rendering where you can create your design in a 3D data model. Digital actually allows you to be more risky because you don’t have to worry that you’ll spend eight hours on a drawing and have to throw it away and start all over again. The speed is really important – you can try thousands of ideas where before you could only try one.
When you see something that works, it’s beautiful. The beauty of pure function is seductive. You know, you wouldn’t redesign a horse because it would look better if its neck was shorter. It works as it is, so it’s beautiful. At McLaren, we’re trying to develop a unique style in the sports car world. The concept we’re heading towards is pure efficiency – we’re looking to build a vacuum, shrink-wrapping the surface of the model across the hard points. And by creating something efficient – something that functions perfectly – we’ll have created something beautiful.
Every car in history has had a windscreen wiper, but recently I went to an Air Force base and asked them why modern aircraft don’t have windscreen wipers. I was told that they have this very inexpensive technology, which means absolutely nothing sticks to the windscreen, but nobody uses it in the automotive industry. What if we use this technology in our cars? You might put out of work all the windscreen wiper companies and windscreen washer fluid companies, but that’s the cost of innovation. Whenever you take a new direction you’re always going to sacrifice something.
In our studio we have a very small team. It’s similar to the concept of a kitchen with a lot of cooks; you get a spoiled soup. The more intense the atmosphere can be, the more interesting the products are going to be
Are early adopters the key to marketing success? Or do they just distract us from the customers that really matter?
Cyrus Shahrad Matthew Green
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In September 2007, Apple dropped the US price of its new 8GB iPhone from $599 to $399. A cause for celebration, one might think, but not for those devotees who had camped outside Apple stores three months earlier to be the first to own the new contraption. Apple forums were flooded with messages of frustration, with Steve Jobs eventually posting an open letter on the Apple website offering $100 store credit and acknowledging that life in the technology lane was ‘bumpy.’ Jobs was nodding to what many call the ‘early adopter tax’ – the idea that those who buy into recently launched technologies run the risk of feeling cheated when prices drop, as they usually do. That’s not the only problem with adopting early – there are also the bugs associated with early versions of new products, as well as the chance that the technology in question may be quickly usurped by another, as HD DVD was by Blu-ray. But they’re risks that early adopters consider worth taking for
the potential rewards of being one step ahead of their peers. Nor is the early adopter purely a product of the digital age. The term dates back to the 1957 Iowa State University PhD of Everett M. Rogers, who studied the diffusion of new technologies such as hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers among farmers. The results formed a bell curve of adoption against time that showed a slowly yielding resistance to change: The bulk of the bulge made up by early and late majority adopters, the two tapering tails comprising laggards at the far end and early adopters at the front. Rogers’ findings were quickly applied to other forms of technology, and the early adopter has since been considered a holy grail by marketing firms – a young, cool, risk-oriented individual capable of spreading the word about new products and helping iron out creases in early versions. Yet some have begun to question the validity of the early adopter model in the emerging technologies market.
John Gerzema of BrandAsset Consulting argues that blind faith in the formula is causing 90 percent of technology companies to target 10 percent of the population, focusing their marketing on young, socially mobile ‘digerati’ who he claims are increasingly irrelevant. Instead, he talks about the ‘long tooth of technology;’ a generation of graying geeks who are perfectly capable of uploading photos of their grandchildren to Flickr, thank you very much. “The majority of Facebook and Twitter audiences are over 40-years-old,” says Gerzema. “You’re dealing with people who have worked in and around computing for 30 years – 15 of them online – and who are completely at ease with technological innovation. It’s no longer safe to try and demark the early adopter demographic by age alone.” Nor is it just the age of the audience that’s changing. As emerging technologies move online, many offer simple point35
and-click enrollment for volunteer early adopters, removing the barrier that once complicated being ahead of the curve. There’s also less importance attached to early adopters in helping remove bugs and glitches, with widespread acceptance of a ‘version-one-point-something’ culture facilitated by rolling online updates. And the early adopter’s voice is less instrumental in spreading the word: In a world of increasingly compressed feedback loops – where news of Beyoncé’s pregnancy can generate 8,868 tweets in a single second – word travels fast, with or without the early adopter’s vocal approval. As always in the field of emerging social media, the challenge is to adapt and evolve, and that’s especially true in an industry like fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), where the products themselves can’t be converted into information. B. Bonin Bough, global director of digital and social media at PepsiCo, has adapted the model by turning PepsiCo itself into an early adopter, spotting powerful social platforms amid the raft of emerging technologies and finding innovative ways to help them promote products that traditionally relied on physical interaction. One example is a recent partnership with location-based networking application Foursquare, which saw customers who ‘checked in’ at Hess service stations rewarded with a combination purchase of Lipton Brisk iced tea and Frito-Lay potato chips for $1.99. Hess got a 500 percent increase in foot traffic, while PepsiCo saw a 47 percent rise in the sale of its promoted products. The success of such ventures led to Bough initiating the PepsiCo10 program, an open call to emerging technology companies to present their ideas to a panel. The 10 winners have received investment from PepsiCo, while PepsiCo stands to gain by championing the technologies to further ‘unlock’ the relationship between its products and its most technologically savvy customers. “Our strategy has been to capitalize on early adoption as a competitive advantage,” says Bough on a whistle-stop trip to London. “Part of our success is due to putting ourselves in the position to spot ground-breaking technologies as 36 THINK SPEED
“Early adoption once constituted a genuine groundswell behind an innovative product or service, but it’s now something co-opted by marketing departments to create queues at product launches.”
Mobile search is growing at an exponential rate, increasing five-fold worldwide in the past two years – a rate comparable to the early days of desktop Google search.5
they come down the pipeline; another is having the stomach to make bets, and not being afraid to experiment with things that might fall short.” All of which suggests that PepsiCo is happy taking on another of the risks that famously dogged early adopters in the past: That they might cast in their lot with a company or technology on the wane, rather than with one on the rise. As the number of such technologies increases exponentially, some argue that the kudos of being first on board has been replaced by credibility for being the first to abandon ship. Greg Behr and Billy Warden of GBW Strategies coined the term ‘first dropper’ in 2010 to describe the sort of person who who deleted their social media account the moment it became cluttered with ads, or ditched their old music service as soon as they realized they could get more reliable recommendations from a rival. “Early adoption once constituted a genuine groundswell behind an innovative product or service,” says Warden, “but it’s now become something co-opted by marketing departments to create queues at product launches. The first droppers are taking back their status as discerning consumers, and are refusing to have their tastes dictated to them by any individual brand.” Blogger Cory Doctorow is a noted example. In 2010, he posted an article entitled ‘Why I’m Not Buying An iPad (And You Shouldn’t Either),’ which – while far from derailing the Apple production line – generated healthy debate among its usually devoted fan base, and got numerous executives hot under the collar. All the more reason, claims Greg Behr, for companies to start monitoring the movements of first droppers the way they once did early adopters. “Companies have to develop to survive, and knowing when your customers are going to start leaving and why gives businesses the chance to evolve before it’s too late. The problem is that marketing agencies still want the excitement of the early adopter, as the negative message of the first dropper isn’t easy to swallow. We feel first droppers are more valuable barometers of opinion than early adopters, but whether companies will want to listen to them is another matter.”
...we’re all se best ways to and be smar KRISTEN GIL 40 THINK SPEED
eeking the move faster rter./45 41
Countries like South Korea, Lithuania, and Latvia regularly top the rankings in world broadband speed. The US does not make it into the top 10.6
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Big business is traditionally slow business. But if you want to up your velocity, why not go back to the future? That’s what Google did when it set out to rediscover its start-up roots – and find the holy grail of business speed. Kristen Gil, VP of Business Operations, explains how. Words by
Kristen Gil Robert Samuel Hanson
been a few years since Google was a small company – but at the beginning of 2011, we saw that in order to support the growth of our business, Google would need to become even bigger, so we set out to have the biggest hiring year in company history. At the same time, we saw that in order to achieve our ambitious goals, we needed to take steps to ship products and make decisions faster. In short, we needed to grow and speed up at the same time, but to do these things concurrently, we needed to make a few changes to how Google operates. It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve already identified some crucial lessons as we work to make our large enterprise as nimble and responsive as that holy grail of business speed: The start-up. 43
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Meaningful Meetings One of our first observations was that many meetings weren’t working as well as they should. A well-run meeting is a great thing; it empowers people to make decisions, solve problems, and share information. But badly-run meetings are a demoralizing waste of time. We didn’t want our employees to waste either time or energy, so we gathered input and made some recommendations to help make meetings more effective. For starters, we noted that every decision-oriented meeting should have a clear decision-maker, and if it didn’t, the meeting shouldn’t happen. Those meetings should ideally consist of no more than 10 people, and everyone who attends should provide input. If someone has no input to give, then perhaps they shouldn’t be there. That’s okay – attending meetings isn’t a badge of honor – but the people who are attending need to get there on time. Most importantly, decisions should never wait for a meeting. If it’s critical that a meeting take place before a decision is made, then that meeting needs to happen right away.
One Person to Stop the Buck Google has historically been organized functionally, with an engineering team, a product team, a sales team, and so on. But as the number of both employees and projects grew, we realized we needed to streamline the decision-making process. To do this, we adopted a ‘buck stops here’ approach that has been very effective. For example, under Vic Gundotra’s management, Google+ shipped over 100 new features in the 90 days after launch,
while accelerating to over 40 million users. That’s a velocity we’re proud of.
Bullpens Aren’t Just for Pitchers Besides fast decisions, another key hallmark of start-ups is their fast-paced, densely populated offices. We’ve always promoted this approach at Google, organizing around small teams and working in close proximity to one another. Even Eric Schmidt shared his office with an engineer when he first joined the company. But as Google grew, the executives spread out to the far reaches of our campuses so they could work side-by-side with their teams. To make sure our key decisionmakers could work and make decisions in an environment more reminiscent of a start-up, we created a ‘bullpen’ in one of the buildings on our main campus, which was specially designed as a place for members of our executive team to work and talk in an informal setting. These execs now set aside a number of hours per week to be there. It’s amazing how fast things can get done – even in a large company – when you put so many key people together and don’t give them an agenda.
objectives and how they’ll measure success. Afterwards, they’re posted for anyone within the company to see. To make sure our products work seamlessly together across Google, we’re focusing more on broader OKRs – big company goals that can only be achieved if everyone works together. For example, a recent OKR objective for our search team was to improve the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, which restates and reiterates the company’s mission statement. The key results underneath that objective included metrics and projects for the quarter, many of which span a number of teams, ensuring a well-coordinated push toward a shared goal. Having these shared goals also has the benefit of helping prevent the formation of silos – always a concern as companies grow.
Make Tough Calls
Use OKRs to Unify
It’s one thing to talk about focus, quite another to practice it. In the second half of 2011 we shut down several products, including Buzz, Code Search, and Desktop, and merged others into existing products as features. Making these decisions allows us to devote more resources to high-impact products that improve the lives of billions of people. Or as Larry Page said, to “put more wood behind fewer arrows.”
Creating quarterly OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) has been part of Google’s culture since board member John Doerr introduced the concept in 1999. More recently, however, we’ve elevated their importance and are using the quarterly OKR all-hands meeting (which is led by Larry Page and other company leaders) as a rallying point for all employees. Team by team, the leaders lay out their
The challenges Google faces aren’t unique; in a permanently accelerating environment, we’re all seeking the best ways to move faster and be smarter. For some final inspiration, consider this nugget from Larry’s closing speech at Zeitgeist: “There are no companies that make good slow decisions.” That pretty much sums it up
The Milky Way is rotating at a speed of 599,996 mph.7
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THE LIGHT FANTASTIC Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (better known as CERN), explains why the slow work of science is fundamental to our fast-moving world. Words by
Matt Bochenski Sam Christmas
Ever since Tim Berners-Lee created the world’s first web page – http://info.cern.ch – in a nondescript lab room in 1989, we have lived in a world of CERN’s creation. “That changed the way we worked and, of course, the way the whole world communicates,” says Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer from his office at the institute’s sprawling headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. As CERN’s Director General, Professor Heuer is responsible for running an organization that has transformed the fabric of our society, adding rocket fuel to the pace at which we do business, make connections, and manage our lives. The World Wide Web may be CERN’s
most famous legacy but its influence doesn’t stop there. From new types of medical treatment to advances in solar energy and the advent of cloud computing, the fundamental science conducted by CERN’s army of brilliant physicists is reshaping, well, just about everything we do – and know. Established in 1954 by 12 European states (today there are 20 member states), CERN is enjoying one of the most exciting eras in its history. In 2008, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider – a particle accelerator housed beneath a mountain on the Franco-Swiss border – successfully smashed two beams of protons into each other at a fraction below the speed of light, kicking up a subatomic cloud of particles that scientists hope will offer invaluable insights into the origin of the universe. But the really cool stuff came in September 2011 with the results of OPERA. An experiment in which a neutrino beam of subatomic particles was fired from Geneva to a laboratory in Italy, 730km away – apparently traveling faster than the speed of light – OPERA left the science community scratching its head, and the rest of the world wondering how soon it could purchase time-traveling Deloreans. (“Maybe a few decades,” is Professor Heuer’s conservative prediction.) And yet the challenge for the professor is that the incredible speeds (literally ‘incredible’ – the faster than light (FTL) experiment is being skeptically cross-
checked by CERN’s sister labs in Japan and Illinois) unleashed within CERN’s accelerators contrast with the slow work of delivering answers to an expectant public. “The world is moving so quickly that people are asking for answers when we don’t have the question yet,” Professor Heuer admits. Even worse, in this economic climate, “They are asking, ‘Why do we need science? We should take care of our immediate problems first.’ But if people in past decades had thought that way, we wouldn’t have the society we have today. Everything depends on science – this is what we need to communicate to people. I think it’s working because the general public is realizing not just how fascinating science can be, but what can come out of science in terms of knowledge and, at some stage, the betterment of society.” The answer, perhaps, lies in rediscovering the roots of science – in using the FTL breakthrough to go back to the future. “I want to encourage the interest of artists in our work,” the professor reveals. “After all, at the very beginning, art and science started as the same thing. Bring them back together and the public might say, ‘Oh, this is how you can see science.’ Once people start talking about it, you have progress in understanding and accepting it.” That is how Professor Heuer and the maverick minds at CERN will give science back its soul – and propel the world one step closer to warp speed
How CERN Changed the World The World Wide Web
Developed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, it was originally a way of connecting scientists with the vast amounts of documentation produced by CERN experiments.
A method of treating tumors with heavy isotopes and proton therapy rather than X-rays. An offshoot of work done in the LHC.
Positron emission tomography (PET) instrumentation developed for particle physics experiments is now being combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for diagnostic possibilities.
Vacuum technology developed to run particles through the LHC is being deployed in the development of highly efficient solar cells.
CERN’s distributed grid computing system allows scientists to take part in experiments from anywhere in the world. That has evolved into the cloud.
The Slow Manifesto Herein are the recordings of celebrated ‘slowologist’ Professor Aldred Leatherworth – once lost, now found, and immortalized for posterity by The Daily Show writer Jo Miller. WORDS BY
Professor Aldred Leatherworth, M. Phil., M.S. T R A N S C R I B E D B Y Jo Miller I L L U S T R A T I O N B Y Patrick Leger
wenty-ﬁrst-century man bolts headlong into the future with gathering speed. Scarcely pausing to draw breath, he crams his waking moments with ever more frantic activity and congratulates himself on his improved efficiency and rapidly dwindling attention span.1 Yet this breakneck acceleration will surely be our downfall. We must grasp the emergency brake of history and yank it before it is too late! Have we forgotten that most of human achievement is the product of idleness and ennui? Consider the most brilliant mind of Antiquity. Would Archimedes have made half so many scientiﬁc discoveries had he not been stuck in a bath, bored stiﬀ, with nothing to do but ponder geometry? Had he opted instead for a quick shower at the gymnasion,2 there would have been no ‘Eureka!’ moment, and mankind would still be at a loss to accurately measure the volume of an irregularly shaped watermelon.3 48 THINK SPEED
Craft, too, is sacriﬁced on the altar of speed. Consider the proud Maori warrior who patiently labors his entire life to fashion a war-club out of hardest jade. True, he might be overrun and killed by enemies before completing his sole instrument of self-defense,4 but should he survive, he will dispatch his foes with the satisfyingly meaty crunch of ornately carved jade on bone – a pleasure the hasty purchaser of a semiautomatic AK-47 will never taste. We scorn the lessons of our more dilatory forebears at our peril. Today the miracle of high-speed rail ﬂings us from New York to Boston5 in scarcely more time than it takes to drive. Faced with such seductive convenience, who among us would think to make that journey, as the Iroquois Chief, Lost Elk, did, on foot, and via Maine?6 The Acela Express barely aﬀords us the leisure to complete a Sudoku. Yet during his wanderings à pied around New England, Lost Elk discovered an antidote to snake bites and authored a reputedly ﬁne volume of limericks – now regrettably out of print – in his native tongue.
Tillman the English Bulldog is the fastest skateboarding dog on record – he covered a 100m stretch of car park in a time of 19.678 seconds in Los Angeles.8
The feckless rush of our age starves the mind, and therefore I exhort you, dear reader, to forswear the jet and the bullettrain and embrace walking!7 Once you have accustomed yourself to the sweet delights of Slowness, you may wish to proceed to the next level: Walking behind tourists. Only the seasoned adept, however, should attempt the most glacial transport ever concocted by man: The cross-town bus. Such a concentrated elixir of Slowness is not for the novice. But O! What dilation of the mind one feels on a three-hour journey from Second Avenue to Seventh! What visions come to one while leaning out of a frozen shelter to scan a busless horizon… Here the manifesto abruptly ends. The foregoing was transcribed from a Moleskine notebook retrieved from beneath the seat of a Manhattan M14 bus. Professor Leatherworth, who eschews email, has not been heard from in the eight months since the editors assigned him this article, and was last spotted making his way on foot to Washington, DC, to speak at the Rally to Save the US Postal Service. (He reportedly missed it by two weeks owing to a blister.)
1 Indeed, a colleague of mine, while in his cups, once glumly averred that our species will soon lose the patience even to read footnotes, at which point we shall surely be no better than the apes. 2 The Greeks invented gym showers in the fourth century BCE, leading (as Professor Kantor-Holling has persuasively argued) to their defeat at the hands of the Romans two centuries later. That Archimedes (Greek for ‘prune-toes’) rejected this specious timesaver is perhaps the greatest testament to his genius. 3 He who doubts the Hellenic devotion to Slowness should try making spanakopita from scratch. It is rumored, though unproven, that Aristotle conceived his Poetics while rolling out phyllo dough. 4
5 Boston, one need hardly point out, contains the greatest concentration of superior minds in the country. That it is also home to the ‘Big Dig,’ an ingenious feat of municipal paralysis that for decades has slowed the city’s auto-traffic to the pace of an asthmatic mule, is surely no coincidence.
Travels from New Amsterdam to Boston By Way of Maine and New-Found-Land, 1649-53, by Chief Lost Elk.
For every journey not requiring a sea component.
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Conventional wisdom suggests that speed to market is crucial to business success. But the history of Silicon Valley contains stories of second-placed competitors who ultimately triumphed over their speedier opponents. We go in search of insights from the archives.
ertain fables offer wonderful business lessons. The Emperor’s New Clothes reminds us not to be blinded by power. While the mouse that pulled the thorn from the lion’s paw contains a lesson that even the mightiest may some day be saved by small and loyal friends (or customers). I’d like to propose another tale to add to the business canon: The Tortoise and the Hare. You remember this one – a tortoise and a hare agree to a race, the hare speeds off,
Leslie Berlin |
hits all of the mile markers first, arrogantly lays down to rest, and ultimately loses to the tortoise, who has adopted a slower, more considered pace. While we often hear about the importance of being first to market, the history of hightech innovation teaches us that being first isn’t everything. Apple wasn’t first with the graphical user interface; IBM wasn’t first with the PC; and the World Wide Web wasn’t the first internet protocol. In some cases, second-place winners
succeed because they have the opportunity to learn from the shortcomings of their predecessors. In others, the companies that come first are too far ahead of the market. And nearly always, the mere passage of time – and the relentless march of Moore’s law – can make the difference. So here, for your entertainment and enlightenment, is a pair of lesser-known stories of tortoises beating hares in highstakes business races. Sit back and read at your leisure.
Venture Capital Today, Silicon Valley is the world headquarters of venture capital, but the first venture capital company in Silicon Valley, founded in 1959, was not a success. The founders of Draper Gaither & Anderson (DG&A) – Generals William H. Draper and Frederick L. Anderson, alongside attorney H. Rowan Gaither – were brilliant risk-takers with connections at the highest levels of American finance, politics, and business. They boasted a stellar list of savvy investors, and were wisely located near Stanford University, with easy access to advanced technology and educated engineers and scientists. DG&A was the first venture capital firm to focus solely on profits for investors (earlier firms aimed to improve regional economies), and the first to use the limited partnership model (in which partners’ primary compensation comes from a percentage of profits, rather than a salary) that is now standard throughout the industry. But even these assets could not compensate for the difficulties DG&A faced simply because they were first. Venture capital was largely unknown on the West Coast in 1959, and entrepreneurs were wary. One junior associate recalled driving from small company to small company, begging CEOs to please, please take some money. Moreover, because DG&A was essentially inventing modern venture capital, they made mistakes. They took all their investors’ money up front, which meant DG&A needed to put it to work as soon as possible to protect the fund’s internal rate of return. The result was a scattershot investment approach in areas ranging from glaucoma drugs to camshaft bearings.
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But even as DG&A struggled, the younger men who worked there were taking notes. When they left, these men – Pete Bancroft, Bill Draper, and Don Lucas – did things differently. They took investors’ money in several tranches (called ‘capital calls’), and invested it only when portfolio companies hit certain pre-determined milestones. As venture capital became an established part of the financial ecosystem, the generation of investors that followed DG&A could pick and choose from a much larger pool of entrepreneurs eager for funding. The names of the companies they backed might ring a few bells – Sun Microsystems, Oracle, AOL, Netscape…
Handheld Digital Assistants In the late-1990s, Palm’s PalmPilot – a ‘personal digital assistant’ featuring a calendar, datebook, notepad, and address book – was all the rage. The cool factor came from an innovative method of entering data: Using a stylus and writing in a special script called ‘Graffiti.’ It sold two million units in three years. The PalmPilot supplanted a device called the Newton MessagePad, made by Apple. The Apple Newton could do everything the PalmPilot could, but it never captured the market in the same way. Why? Critically, the Newton had problems with handwriting recognition – the joke on the street was that the only handwriting the Newton reliably recognized was its own project manager’s. The PalmPilot flipped the Apple model on its head. Rather than teaching the device to recognize a wide range of styles, Palm would teach a wide range of people a single way to write. Watching Apple’s mistakes gave Palm the confidence to
gamble that people would modify their behavior to fit the needs of a machine – if the modification brought them really cool technology. Palm learned another thing by watching the performance of the Newton. At 18cm high and nearly 2cm thick, it was too big. Palm designer Jeff Hawkins wanted to build something smaller – something that could fit in a shirt pocket. To determine the right size, Hawkins spent months carrying a block of wood in his pocket, pretending it was a handheld computer. Every time he set up an appointment or recorded a thought, he mimed entering the data into his block of wood. Once he decided the block was about the right size, it became the model for the PalmPilot. Of course, now another 15 years has passed, and the screw has turned again. When it comes to handheld devices, sales of Apple’s iPhone have eclipsed those of Palm’s smartphone. In other words, we’ve witnessed the tortoise and the hare reconfigure themselves for another lap of the circuit. o these stories imply that speedto-market means nothing at all? Hardly. Business guru Jim Collins points to three scenarios in which being first ‘virtually guarantees a sustainable advantage:’ If you can secure ‘ironclad patent protection,’ set a proprietary industry standard, or use your lead to establish such a beachhead that even if better options become available, your customers will find it ‘too much of a hassle’ to switch (the QWERTY keyboard is the example he offers). If none of these scenarios apply, you might think twice about surging ahead. Let the hare make a few mistakes. If history is any guide, the time spent thinking, learning, and watching may ultimately mean you win the race
When Bruce Lee started filming The Green Hornet in 1966, the director asked him to slow down his moves because they were too fast for the cameras.9
Our brains make brand-influenced decisions at the speed of thought. Follow these five golden rules to make the selection process work for you. Tjaco Walvis I l l u s t r a t i o n b y Boja Bomaque Words by
We make brand choices subconsciously, algorithmically, and fast (we’re talking milliseconds). And although we can veto decisions once they enter our conscious awareness, consciousness is not the driver of our choices. We’re not irrational – our brain seeks to satisfy our goals and emotional needs in the best possible way, maximizing reward and minimizing energy, costs, efforts, and risks – but it’s from the subconscious that we make brand-influenced decisions. How does the process work and what does it mean for marketers seeking to get their brand in pole position? A useful way to think about it is this: Our brand choices are analogous to the way that Google selects websites – the brain follows a fixed algorithm to pick the brand from our memory that best fits our needs. Five principles summarize the main implications for marketers.
Reward From the brain’s perspective, brands promise rewards that deliver on our subconscious cocktail of goals. To make choices, our brain integrates a range of elements into a valuation. Deciding between something simple like a Frappuccino or a Fanta means considering factors like taste, previous experiences, relative price, your energy level, your thirst, the time of day, the humidity, the temperature, etc. Whichever brand comes out on top gets selected. Instead of worrying about classical attribute differentiation, marketers must focus on creating an overall relevance edge – being substantially more rewarding than competitors. This is difficult, because the
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subconscious goals brands must deliver on are, well, subconscious. Steve Jobs captured the point in his reply to a question about the market research that Apple undertook for the iPad. “None,” he said. “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.” The best approach is to think like a customer.
Repeat Brand associations are stored in our long-term memory. These memories are considered in the quick valuation our brains calculate when making a choice. But as memories decay if not regularly reactivated, marketers must continually reiterate both a brand’s promise and the proof that it delivers. Advertising is, of course, one of the best ways to refresh brand memories, especially among light users. As a result, advertising generates sales even when the brand’s sales volume remains flat or, worse, when volume is decreasing.
Under-Promise; Over-Deliver Our brain keeps track of the difference between the promised reward and the actual experience. Based on that difference, it adjusts its valuation of the brand, meaning that if your brand promises the world, deliver the moon. When our reward centers get more than expected, they naturally want to return to the source of that experience again and again. Like a benign drug, marketing can benefit from this mechanism.
Participation We create thousands of new brain cells every day – especially in areas related to learning and memory – but exposure to participatory environments can double the number. The result is that brands we interact with are easier to remember and are therefore more likely to receive a higher memory ranking. Nike+ is perhaps the most dramatic example of how a static product was transformed into a participatory experience, more deeply embedding the brand in users’ memories.
Reach with Meaning Around 50 percent of sales generally come from 80 percent of buyers – this is called the ‘Pareto distribution’ (and has recently been reaffirmed in Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow, Oxford University Press 2010). It means that to grow, advertising must reach the large numbers of lighter users who deliver 50 percent of volume but seldom think of the brand. This may explain why mass media such as TV and radio are still popular with advertisers. The biggest help marketers can get from digital media companies are means to reliably reach the entire customer population of their category. The one-on-one nature of social media can make them very effective at the micro level. But to grow, brands need mass penetration. The best digital advertising delivers this reach but does it while retaining that personalized relevance
Half of ecommerce shoppers expect a page to load in two seconds or less.10
...in the imag business, spe your friend./ ASTRO TELLER 56 THINK SPEED
gination eed is /60 57
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easy to make fun of the past. Remember when Thomas Watson, the head of IBM, said that the world would only ever need five computers? How about when DEC founder Ken Olsen, declared, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home?” Or when Bill Gates decided that 640K was all the memory a PC would ever need? Never mind that these stories are apocryphal; we repeat them because they ring true. When you first used a computer, saw a PC, went to a website, or picked up a cell phone, did you imagine that these devices would someday be able to do even a fraction of the things that we now take for granted? Probably not, and since ignorance loves company, we take comfort in believing that brilliant people like Watson, Olsen, and Gates were just as short-sighted as the rest of us. Even if, in fact, they weren’t. There’s no shame in exhibiting a failure of imagination; it’s a trapping of human
psychology. When we come up against things we can’t forecast (for example, what would we do with 1,000 times more computing power in our phones?), we assume that if we can’t imagine it, it isn’t possible or won’t materialize. That’s because we think in a linear fashion, subconsciously projecting our current pace of progress into the future. But technology is changing at a non-linear pace. Progress is speeding up, which is why, as Larry Page said at our Zeitgeist conference (paraphrasing Bill Gates), “People tend to overestimate what can happen in the next year but underestimate what can happen in the next five.” While we can’t rewire our tendency to think linearly, we can train ourselves to recognize when that tendency is kicking in and consciously overcome it. This is sort of my job at Google. I work on a team that tries to find new opportunities to use major technical breakthroughs to solve big problems that could affect billions of people.
Technology is progressing at an exponential rate, but are we thinking big enough to take advantage? Astro Teller, Google’s Director of New Products, is determined to rise to the challenge. Words by
Astro Teller Celyn Brazier
start by thinking about what should be possible. How do we make that call? We know that computing power, bandwidth, and storage are getting better and cheaper. Information is ubiquitous, and data that used to be locked up in thousands of silos around the world (in universities, businesses, and governments) is now moving online and becoming widely accessible. These factors are leading us to a critical point: The rate at which computers are getting better at understanding semantic information (language, symbols, images, even facial expressions) is increasing. If we assume that these ‘exponential trends’ are set to continue, we can stretch our minds to consider incredible advances. We do this by applying a powerful but simple rule of thumb: If a human can do it, so can a computer. This helps us differentiate between things that are impossible (like time travel) and those that are just really difficult (like self-driving cars). In computer science terms, a human consists of two video cameras, a pair of microphones, four actuators, and a remarkably powerful CPU; and we manage to drive cars just fine. Why would we think a robot couldn’t? Once we decide that something is possible, we look at whether or not it’s useful. This is a critical step. There are plenty of technically challenging things that would be completely useless in real life. But if you believe that something is both possible to achieve and, once realized, would be tremendously beneficial, it becomes a fairly simple equation. Consider those selfdriving cars again. Does it take a bigger leap of imagination to believe that they will someday exist? Or that they won’t? We bet that they will, and get to work. Another good example is GPS. Twentyfive years ago it was possible to determine an object’s geographical position outdoors within 25m, but it only seemed useful for military, scientific, and marine applications. Even 15 years ago, consumer uses of the 60 THINK SPEED
“Imagine that the world’s most powerful supercomputers are a thousand times more powerful, and you can use them whenever and wherever you want. What will these new capabilities unleash?”
NASA’s X-43A scramjet set the new world record for fastest jet-powered aircraft, flying at Mach 9.6, or nearly 7,000 mph.11
technology, such as maps with navigation, or location services like Foursquare and Google Latitude, were difficult for most of us to imagine. Today, of course, GPS is a ubiquitous consumer application. I can look at the map on my phone and it shows with 25m accuracy that I’m standing next to my car on the Google campus in Mountain View, California. But GPS isn’t done. We now know that it’s possible to improve accuracy to 2.5m and to locate positions indoors as well as outside. But is it useful? We think so. How about the next two orders of magnitude? It should be possible, we believe, to pinpoint geographic location within 25cm, and perhaps to eventually whittle that down to 2.5cm. As for usefulness, many people can’t see it, but I’m betting that these potential improvements in localization accuracy will turn out to be every bit as valuable as the previous steps. I just can’t say exactly how. So what’s next? Fortunately, when you live in the twenty-first century and are in the imagination business, speed is your friend. Imagine that your PC, laptop, tablet, or phone is a thousand times more powerful. Imagine the wireless or wired networks that connect it to the internet are a thousand times faster as well. Imagine that every bit of recorded information that has ever been created is available online, while trillions of sensors around the planet are creating exabytes of new data every second. Imagine that the world’s most powerful supercomputers are a thousand times more powerful, and you can use them whenever and wherever you want. What products or services will these new capabilities unleash? Could we develop software systems to read long papers and provide an accurate executive summary as fast as a search query is answered today? Sure, why not? That sounds incredibly useful. Could computers write their own software based on a system designer’s natural language specifications (‘Please take this app and develop different versions to run on the most popular consumer platforms’)? Absolutely. If something rides the rails of exponentially improving computer and data capability, and if its benefits are sufficiently powerful, it is likely to happen – whether we can imagine it today or not
Google’s Lady Gaga Chrome ad helped attract more than 200 million browser downloads and was created in less than a week from start to ﬁnish.12
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html5 is the
web language that promises to put the magic back into your digital marketing. Here’s what you need to know... Words by
Caroline McCarthy Andy Gilmore
with its potential: Plugin-free video players; local storage and caching; and lightningfast load times eliminating lag. Best of all, HTML5 can be carried over to smartphone browsers, too, meaning that you may no longer need to develop an arsenal of apps for different platforms. More complex species of videos, games, and interactive experiences can now come straight to the browser – no downloading required. For developers, marketers, and users alike, this is big news. “There are lots of features of HTML5 that can speed up the performance of web apps, resulting in a much better user experience,” says Jan Kleinert, a Google developer advocate who specializes in HTML5 and its use in the Chrome browser. “Users want web apps that are beautiful and interactive, but they also want them to be fast.” So what’s the catch? As with any new technology, there will be teething problems. For one thing, ‘HTML5’ has already started to become a (misleading) label for anything cool in the browser that doesn’t require Flash, potentially leading to confusion and a lack of understanding. “Marketers are interested in HTML5 but often toss the name around without knowing what it really means from a technical perspective,” says Hashem Bajwa, director of digital strategy at agency Droga5. “Marketers who care about their online content should also care how it gets presented technically. Understanding the role HTML5 can
HTML5 in Action Nike Better World
Games for Cats
Toyota Prius Projects
World’s Biggest Pac-Man
A blend of bold photos and animation makes this guide to the sneaker brand’s philanthropy and sustainability initiatives jump right off your monitor.
Cat food brand Friskies created these games to give kitties a way to play with tablet devices. Using HTML5 instead of native apps ensures they can purr on every platform.
Bright, eye-popping visuals that create the feel of an interactive drawing board give shape to the story and development of the hybrid car brand.
It was big news in the digital world when the UKbased newspaper ditched its mobile apps in favor of an HTML5 experience that has earned acclaim from both sides of the pond.
Agency Soap Creative built this experience for Namco Bandai’s beloved ghost-munching game. Users are encouraged to create their own mazes and add them to the grid.
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Though our world is changing, the spaces in which we teach are stuck in a time warp. According to some forward-thinking experts, only by embracing new technology and ideas can twenty-first-century schooling stay up to speed with the kids. Words by
Andrea Kurland |
or nearly two centuries, schools have been tasked with turning underage citizens into a singular workforce capable of tackling, and molding, tomorrow’s world. But here’s the thing: If the world we live in looks nothing like it did three decades ago, and even less like it will three decades hence, is it right that the classroom of today would be instantly recognizable to your mother, your mother’s mother, or your constantly networking, cell phone-obsessed daughter? It’s hardly revolutionary to say we’re living through revolutionary times. How we work, communicate, live, and learn has been transformed by the information age spawned by the internet. But while we intuitively weave new tools into our
everyday lives – blogging, tweeting, texting, and using Google as if by instinct – inside high-school walls, it’s like they don’t exist. Thankfully, kids are a resourceful bunch. When it comes to knowledge that matters in the real world, they know that most answers are simply a collaborative click away, existing as they do in the open, participatory spaces that we all inhabit online. But isn’t it about time our classrooms caught up and started moving at web speed? Faced with a complex future, some educational thinkers aren’t afraid to accept that in order to move forward we need to dissect the old system and erect a new vision in its place. These key lessons can help pave the way.
Professor Cathy Davidson knows how to handle change. Speaking from her office at Duke University, where her classes include ‘This Is Your Brain on the Internet,’ she’s blasting through the information ages that have transformed our world – from the invention of writing in ancient Mesopotamia, to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web. “Almost everything we know about school was designed for the late eighteenth century, when the invention of steam-powered presses made books available to common people,” she explains. “Partly, it was about social control; how you take this massive group of people that are becoming literate and educate them for the industrial workplace. [Now] here we are, in this fourth information age where everybody can broadcast themselves, and we’re still working with a top-down, hierarchical system.” In her book, Now You See It, Davidson explores how our brains have adapted to the digital age, despite our long-standing anxiety about the speed of information. ‘Early critics of the car, for example, simply refused to believe they could be safe because, after all, human attention and reflexes were not created to handle so much information flying past the windshield,’ she writes. Yet our brain is not static – it adjusts and adapts and ensures we keep up. So concerns that seem rational today often appear ludicrous tomorrow. “People say crazy stuff about how the internet is ruining attention and young people’s memory,” says Davidson. “But only five percent of the brain’s energy is used when we switch from one task to another, whereas when you focus in a specific way, which is what the traditional education model thinks attention should be, you’re actually excluding everything else.” This disconnect between the mediocre brain we think we have, and the astonishingly adaptable one embedded in our skull, has kept our education system tethered to an outdated archetype. 66 THINK SPEED
“Every child should be learning code. They should learn how to work collaboratively, and manage a project. All of those intense skills are similar to the world of learning kids experience online.”
Today, 60 percent of all YouTube videos go live in under one minute – a year ago, no videos were being processed that quickly.13
In her book, Davidson calls it the ‘assembly line’ model that both ‘offers uniformity and suffers from it.’ Its cornerstones are standardized grading and curricula that stifle creativity. ‘Everything about school and work in the twentieth century was designed to create and reinforce separate subjects, separate cultures, separate grades, separate functions, separate spaces for personal life, work, private life, public life, and all the other divisions,’ writes Davidson. ‘Then the internet came along.’ As she explains today: “We’ve spent the last 100 years teaching ourselves how to have a kind of individual, task-oriented, specialized attention. Now we’re living in a world whose wonders are based on collaborative, open, contributive, iterative, group interactive, contradictory, conscious, constantly evolving thinking.” It’s a world that requires new approaches – ones that get away from monolithic teaching practices and embrace a student-centric philosophy. And it’s already happening. Khan Academy, an online ‘school’ hosted on YouTube that combines 2,500-plus tutorial videos with exercises and real-time data on student performance, has been working with Los Altos School District to embed their resources into the school day. Far from dehumanizing learning, the idea is to ‘flip the classroom.’ With teachers assigning videos as homework, and working on problems with smaller groups during class, students are able to progress at their own pace. So, is it a case of adapt or die? “I actually don’t think you need to put one penny of tech into the classroom in order to do a far better job of teaching kids how to think for this era,” says Davidson. “Every child should be learning code, even if it’s just to know how the system works. They should learn how to work collaboratively, how to work in groups, and manage a project. All of those intense skills are similar to the world of learning kids experience online.”
Whenever Professor Sugata Mitra unveils his latest findings, traditional educationalists start quaking in their boots. For proponents of repeat-after-me learning, the words ‘Minimally Invasive Education’ (MIE) are not welcome. But then, revolutions seldom are. In 1999, Mitra set up an experiment that would subvert the principle of hierarchical expertise underpinning education – that for one person to learn, another must teach. While working for global education company NIIT, he installed a computer in a wall in Kalkaji, New Delhi. He discovered that, when left unsupervised, children from the surrounding slums could learn to use it by themselves. “It isn’t unbelievable now,” says Mitra. “But we have to throw our minds back to 1999; people used to think that computers needed to be taught to children. I thought that might not be the case.” Having proven his hypothesis, Mitra rolled out more ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiments across India, Cambodia, and Africa. Each one delivered the same surprise. “We had stumbled on some kind of universal learning mechanism. Naturally, a second question arose: If children can teach themselves to use a computer, what else can they teach themselves? And that led to a whole set of experiments, which is currently saying, quite unbelievably, that groups of children given an internet-connected computer can teach themselves almost anything.” Things hit a crescendo when Mitra set a group of Tamil-speaking village children the ‘impossible’ task of learning the biotechnology of DNA replication – from English material, without a teacher. “In three months they were up to speed with my control group at a posh school in New Delhi,” says Mitra. “My next question is: Can children learn to read by themselves? It’s a short little question, but one that will turn education on its head if the answer is yes. If a child can teach himself to read and then he’s exposed to the internet, does he need anything else?” After 12 years of experiments, Mitra has turned the theories underpinning MIE into physical spaces – pods, known as SOLEs (Self-Organized Learning Environments), in which groups of children can search the internet unsupervised. “The absence of a teacher can be a pedagogical tool,” explains 67
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Mitra. “Before you start teaching anything, you give the learners a chance to see if they can do it by themselves. If they can, you move on. It’s as simple as that.” Likewise, in Davidson’s classes, the teacher is no longer the only expert in the room. “I’m using the principles of open web development,” she explains. “Each week, two students are in charge of the class; they read what’s on the syllabus and then decide whether they’re going to teach that or choose something different. Everybody is guaranteed an ‘A’ if 10 assignments are judged satisfactory by their peers. It’s a constant process of learning how to grow from one another’s feedback, very much in the way that you learn from online social networking. You don’t know who the conduit of information is, but you learn to trust people because they’re good at passing on information. That’s turning the education system inside out. That, to me, is the world we live in now.”
“The phones students have in their pockets are often more powerful than the computers in school,” says Geoff Stead, Head of Innovation at education consultants Tribal. “Before banning them, just think: In any future job, would you expect to be able to contact people wherever they are? That’s the world we’re preparing our kids for, so it makes no sense to pretend that phones don’t exist. Our mantra is: Don’t use phones as a channel to push content; use them as a tool to engage and encourage learners to do things.” Stead knows that mobile tech is enabling social change because he’s seen it firsthand. Through M-Ubuntu – an initiative that’s using inexpensive cell phones to introduce 600 South African students to project-based learning – and an app-based literacy program targeting McDonald’s employees, he’s helping disengaged learners to become re-engaged.
But it’s not just about empowering learners. Empowering teachers through tech is a mantra echoing through education’s halls. The Google Faculty Institute (GFI) is just one initiative targeting grassroots educators to get the revolution off the ground. “The aim is to affect deeper pedagogical change by collaborating with pre-service teachers and faculty members from the education departments of 19 California State Universities,” explains
“The phones students have in their pockets are often more powerful than the computers in school. It makes no sense to pretend they don’t exist. Our mantra is: Use phones to encourage learners to do things.”
Maggie Johnson, Google’s Director of Education and University Relations. “The hope is that we can build a new breed of teachers who move into the system with a completely different way of thinking about technology.” This summer, GFI gathered to discuss how technology could be used to transform the classroom from lecture hall to conversation space. But that was just the start. Ten grants were awarded to projects worked on by a team of several Fellows,
each designed to reach fruition in six to nine months. “One project I really like is a fourweek curriculum to teach pre-service teachers how to program on an Android device using App Inventor – a tool that allows nontechnical people to build mobile applications,” says Johnson. “One of my favorite things is that it’s scalable – it can be dropped into any educational technology class anywhere. Not only does it take the mystery out of technology, it also gives these new teachers a chance to get their students engaged.” Finding ways to engage students has always been education’s holy grail, and for Ewan McIntosh it’s as critical as ever. Through NoTosh, the consultancy he founded to “cut the crap from creativity gurus,” he helps teachers adopt the principles of ‘design thinking’ that come naturally to tech start-ups. By engaging students as problemfinders, not problem-solvers, says McIntosh, we can catalyze a wave of social change. “Teachers are beginning to realize that the old way, as well as not producing great examination results, is producing youngsters who simply don’t enjoy school,” he says. “A disengaged learner is more likely to become a disengaged citizen, and that’s far more costly than investing now in thinking about how we grab students’ attention. Nothing engages a person more than a project they came up with.” ehind school gates and university walls, forward-thinking educators are turning insights like these into learning spaces that dovetail with the way we live and communicate in the twenty-first century. What the future looks like is still anyone’s guess. But as long as education keeps accelerating towards it, the generation that gets to experience it will have the skills to flourish. “The final catalyst will be when teachers have students – 17- or 18-year-olds – who don’t know a ‘before,’” concludes Davidson. “Young people who say, ‘I don’t care what came before; this is the world I live in, this is the world you live in, so how can we make it work for us?’ Once you get past the ‘before’ and ‘after,’ you hold the world accountable in a different way, and you hold institutions accountable in a different way. I think that’s when change happens exponentially.” 69
The current version of Google Chrome is six times faster than its original beta.14
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Guest columnist Paul Gunning, CEO of Tribal DDB Worldwide, extols the virtues of marketing at speed. Welcome to the real-time revolution. Words by
Paul Gunning |
eal-time marketing is set to dominate almost every facet of our industry. Consumers are not only moving quickly across platforms (between MySpace, Facebook, and Google+), but on to new devices with startling speed (think one million iPhone 4Ss sold in a single day). It’s now imperative to find methods to connect with consumers in real-time, and that means we need to invent ways of doing our jobs faster than ever. It’s obvious today that our goals of yesteryear were somewhat linear: Utilizing research; coming up with insights on behavior that we could leverage with a solid strategy; showcasing the concept with award-winning creative; and parsing the results a quarter or two after the campaign ended. How things have changed. While we’re still probing research and drawing findings from focus groups, we are simultaneously monitoring consumer sentiment and performance in real time. Using technologically advanced tools such as Radian6 and Sysomos, we’re witnessing the brand conversation as it happens, and
reacting to our consumers by crafting advertising around those insights. That advertising is being conceived and crafted faster than ever. And while technology is a key enabler, underpinning the shift in pace is also a shift in culture. We are impelled to move faster because we know we have to. What used to take weeks is now delivered in days, if not hours. The danger then is that speed might cause us to stumble – but we must ensure against mistakes when it comes to our clients’ brand value. We’re now developing the confidence required to produce high-caliber work in a shorter period of time. You must trust yourself and your team to deliver. And it’s not just about producing the work: The media environment in which it may run is also dominated by realtime information. Take the trading desks: The notion that we can target with amazing accuracy, auction the price in the blink of an eye, and flight the creative to match needs is one of the most intriguing recent advances in the advertising industry. If you’re not practicing in this environment yet, or at least considering how the agency functions must change when these platforms reach the required scale, I’m not sure you’ll
be competitive. Keep in mind, while the internet inventory is the first in, all media – including TV – will follow. Next we must consider the 24/7 consumer mindset. DVRs, apps, and gaming consoles are all important in this realtime atmosphere. But the smartphone, and, more specifically, the smartphone in a retail environment (with its message flexibility and the allure of geo-location), is what will make the world change at a scale I’m intrigued by. Knowing a customer is nearby, and having an opportunity to beam into their car or pocket with a qualified message, is irresistible to advertisers. Once in store, product comparisons, how-to guides, and a multitude of interactive experiences come to life, all revealing what consumers are actually doing and how advertisers can cater their messaging to them contextually. Real-time information is omnipresent in every section of the marketing funnel, in every function of the advertising agency, and in the consumer’s media usage patterns. What are you doing to harness these trends? How are you recasting your role? Is it an opportunity or will it just frustrate your enterprise? Think about it – but not too long. You only have seconds to spare
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Published on Dec 19, 2011
The Speed issue of Google’s Think Quarterly is about this acceleration of everything – what is changing and how it works, why it matters and...