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ROFLCon III: Protecting the Lolz

Last weekend I joined hundreds of internet nerds* at MIT for ROFLCon III, a two-day convention celebrating internet culture and all things meme**. Now a few days out from the numerous panels, lectures and social-outings, I'm left pondering the following key theme and associated takeaways from the event. The Evolution of ROFLCon / The Mainstreaming of the Web Having attended the previous two ROFLCons (2008 and 2010), I've noticed a not-so-subtle shift in the underlying theme/sentiment of each event. Described as the first ever Internet culture conference, ROFLCon was a true celebration of web culture when it occurred in 2008 as iconic content creators, editors and fans gathered together for the first time IRL (in real life). It was a who's who of popular internet stars running the gamut from individuals who had achieved 'internet fame'? via YouTube (Gem Sweater girl), influential content creators (XKCD) and venerable web icons (Tron Guy). At the time, I vividly recall all of my friends giving me blank stares when I rattled off the attendee list and giddily shared highlights of the two days at MIT. In 2010, I returned to Cambridge with high hopes for a repeat event ' two more days of celebrating the joys of the web filled with lots and lots of lolz ' but the tone of the event had clearly shifted. While still celebratory in nature, the main theme of ROFLCon II was the encroachment of the 'mainstream'? upon the formerly more exclusive corners of meme-culture on the web. What was particularly interesting is this 'mainstreaming'? was both embraced ' David and his father from David after the Dentist and Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like were both popular additions to the conference ' and strongly attacked ' Ben Huh of the (I Can Haz) Cheezburger network was grilled (no pun intended) for his monetization of lolcats. Additionally, a common topic of conversation discussed among many panelists was the growing presence of brands and marketers entering the space and the fear around potential implications tied to their entry. This past weekend, rumored to be the last ever ROFLCon, the conference centered around the general sentiment (in the form of passive resignation) that the internet has 'gone mainstream'? and now we must as a community ensure that it is protected. Many panelists from this year have snowballed their 15 minutes of Internet fame into sponsorships and appearances (Nyan Cat was in a Sprint Nexus commercial; Antoine Dodson had a chart-topping iTunes song and an appearance on Tosh.0; Paul 'Double Rainbow Guy'? Vasquez was in a Windows Live Photo Gallery spot) and with that commercial success (albeit likely only momentary), many at ROFLCon questioned if the web is beginning to lose its authenticity and creative spirit. moot, the originator of 4chan and a demi-god within the ROFLcon subculture, shared a somewhat bleak vision for the future of the web: "The web is being stripped of its richness. Memes are the instruments by which we make music. The way things are going, we're going to lose our song.'? I personally disagree with this sentiment. I believe that as more people continue to gain access to high-speed internet and content creation tools, we will come to see even more niche communities sprout on the web. Yes, Facebook and Reddit have arguably replaced forums and AOL chat rooms, but advances in technology and connectivity have provided new outlets for many more creative minds. One of the more interesting panels at ROFLcon examined international 'internet revolutions'? in Brazil, China and Syria and the impact that meme culture has had in providing a voice to the people in each country. And the best part, what's funny in Brazil or edgy in Syria is not necessarily funny or edgy in the US. The web is wonderful because it can offer content and utilities that are designed for mass consumption, but it can just as easily provide a voice to a solitary cause or community, or it can simply be a place where you upload your really awkward prom pictures or that video you made when trying to complete the cinnamon challenge. There were still very many lolz at this year's ROFLCon. And as an advertising guy, it was selfishly rewarding to see Craig Allen of Weiden and Kennedy (he wrote the Old Spice Guy ads) and Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice Guy) so warmly embraced during their Q&A. But in addition to the laughs, there were also many serious, important conversations around the future of the web ' mostly re: intellectual property and the remixing of content. It was inspiring to see via a show of hands that almost all of the attendees had taken action in the recent SOPA debacle. And it was great to hear passionate debate around the broader theme of the 'mainstreaming of the web'?. I for one am excited for the next chapter of the web. And as we enter that next chapter, my advice for marketers is don't aim to create memes, and don't simply cut and paste a meme into your advertising efforts in an attempt to be relevant or edgy. As a marketer, I'm incredibly aware of the lines between authenticity and blatant commercialization, and consumers can very quickly identify the differences between the two. As a brand, aim to create smart, engaging content, and then open the doors for your consumers to make it their own. Author Notes: *I use "nerd" in a loving context - I consider myself part of the collective. ** From Wikipedia, an internet 'meme'? is used to describe any 'concept that spreads via the Internet'?

I'm Uber Excited about Uber

It's the quintessential night out in downtown Boston. You and all your friends meet up at [fill in the blank] bar for drinks and good times. Shortly before 2am the lights come on, coats are gathered and everyone - at every bar in the area - heads outside to hail a cab... simultaneously. What usually follows is 10-90 minutes of arm-extended frustration as I curse the anonymous backseat riders who drive by in unlit taxis. Well, not anymore. This weekend I finally tried out the relatively-new "on-demand private driver" service, Uber. For the past few months I've read articles about Uber's burgeoning growth and observed a growing number of complimentary tweets fill my news feed. Partially inspired by these positive reviews, but mainly motivated by the out-of-order ATM and the crowd of other bar patrons lining Tremont Street, I decided to give Uber a shot this past Saturday night. Let me say, it was a life changing experience. In less than 5 minutes, I downloaded Uber's iPhone app, set-up a personal profile, requested a car and got picked up. That's right. 5 minutes from searching the App store to being in the backseat of Ameur's (my driver) sedan. Here's a quick overview of how the service works: Request a ride from anywhere at any time via SMS or by using Uber's iPhone or Android apps (GPS pinpoints your specific location and provides to Uber) Uber dispatches the nearest driver to pick you up and immediately provides an estimated arrival time. Via the app, you can actually watch your black car en route to your location Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride... cash free. Uber automatically charges the cost of the ride - including tip - to the credit card you have on file. Pricing is based on a flat base fare ($7 in Boston) and then incremental charges based on distance/time The overall experience was terrific. After arriving at my destination, I immediately received a receipt via email and was encouraged to rate my driver on a 1-5 star scale. The cost of the ride was relatively comparable to a taxi (perhaps a few dollars more), but the overall experience was head and shoulders above taking a cab home. Available in Boston, Chicago, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, D.C. and soon in LA and Toronto - Uber marries the best of technology and convenience to provide a stellar consumer experience. I highly recommend downloading the app and giving Uber a try. And with promises that this is a totally unsolicited endorsement, I will also share that they have a great referral program to motivate trial. Sign up with this link and get $10 off your first ride! https://clients.uber.com/#!/invite/jv4kz. Any other Uber fans out there? Let me know about your experiences so far in the comments section below!

  • 2 min read
  • March 5, 2012

I'm Uber Excited about Uber

It's the quintessential night out in downtown Boston. You and all your friends meet up at [fill in the blank] bar for drinks and good times. Shortly before 2am the lights come on, coats are gathered and everyone - at every bar in the area - heads outside to hail a cab... simultaneously. What usually follows is 10-90 minutes of arm-extended frustration as I curse the anonymous backseat riders who drive by in unlit taxis. Well, not anymore. This weekend I finally tried out the relatively-new "on-demand private driver" service, Uber. For the past few months I've read articles about Uber's burgeoning growth and observed a growing number of complimentary tweets fill my news feed. Partially inspired by these positive reviews, but mainly motivated by the out-of-order ATM and the crowd of other bar patrons lining Tremont Street, I decided to give Uber a shot this past Saturday night. Let me say, it was a life changing experience. In less than 5 minutes, I downloaded Uber's iPhone app, set-up a personal profile, requested a car and got picked up. That's right. 5 minutes from searching the App store to being in the backseat of Ameur's (my driver) sedan. Here's a quick overview of how the service works: Request a ride from anywhere at any time via SMS or by using Uber's iPhone or Android apps (GPS pinpoints your specific location and provides to Uber) Uber dispatches the nearest driver to pick you up and immediately provides an estimated arrival time. Via the app, you can actually watch your black car en route to your location Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride... cash free. Uber automatically charges the cost of the ride - including tip - to the credit card you have on file. Pricing is based on a flat base fare ($7 in Boston) and then incremental charges based on distance/time The overall experience was terrific. After arriving at my destination, I immediately received a receipt via email and was encouraged to rate my driver on a 1-5 star scale. The cost of the ride was relatively comparable to a taxi (perhaps a few dollars more), but the overall experience was head and shoulders above taking a cab home. Available in Boston, Chicago, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seattle, D.C. and soon in LA and Toronto - Uber marries the best of technology and convenience to provide a stellar consumer experience. I highly recommend downloading the app and giving Uber a try. And with promises that this is a totally unsolicited endorsement, I will also share that they have a great referral program to motivate trial. Sign up with this link and get $10 off your first ride! https://clients.uber.com/#!/invite/jv4kz. Any other Uber fans out there? Let me know about your experiences so far in the comments section below!

sHOp sHOp sHOp

With the holidays quickly approaching, AMP 20mg levitra canada recently conducted a Mobile Shopping Survey to get a pulse on consumers' likelihood to use their mobile devices for holiday shopping and to better understand key motivators for mobile shopping adoption. The statistics "rang" loud and clear - chances are, "yule" be shopping on your mobile phone this holiday season. Use of mobile to date for shopping: 42% of respondents have already used a mobile phone or mobile device to make a purchase Of those respondents, 53% have used a mobile phone or mobile device more frequently to purchase products in the last 6 months When it comes to features they use on their phone during mobile shopping, they most frequently use the Internet (97%), search engines (59%) and apps (34%) Expected use of mobile for shopping this holiday season: 67% of respondents plan on using their mobile phone or mobile device to make a purchase during this year's holiday shopping season 67% also plan to use their mobile phone or mobile device to do research prior to purchasing products during this holiday season These are the top 5 categories that respondents are most likely to use their mobile phone or mobile device to browse/buy during this holiday season: Electronics (51%) Video games (35%) Children's toys & Apparel (both tied at 33%) Mobile phones/devices (31%) Restaurant gift certificates (29%) So now that we've established that consumers will be shopping via mobile, what can you do to ensure you make the "nice" list? Start by ensuring that you have a mobile optimized version of your e-commerce site with intuitive checkout capabilities and secure payment integration. Consider developing a custom app if consumers can benefit from peer reviews, instructional videos or if your retail model lends itself to detailed product browsing. And think beyond the handset - how can your mobile strategy connect with consumers across non-traditional touch points. Take a look at two out-of-the-box examples of recent mobile shopping integration: Tesco (South Korea) Tesco created a virtual grocery store on a subway platform allowing consumers to use their phones to shop the shelves just like they would inside a Tesco store. Consumers could complete their order before boarding the train and have their groceries delivered to their front door after work. Check out a video case study. Nissan Anyone shopping for a 2012 Altima or Sentra will now be able to use their iPhone, Android or BlackBerry to scan an on-vehicle QR code to gain access to detailed vehicle information including features, available add-ons, video/image galleries and offers. Consumers who don't enjoy the pesky sales pitch can now gain valuable information on their own device and revisit the content later on when comparison shopping. Learn more. Interested in amping up your mobile holiday strategy? It's not too late! Email me at mjacobs (at) ampagency (dot) com to start the conversation.

Kia Scores a Slam Dunk with All-Star Integration

The debate is still buzzing in our office over whether or not Blake Griffin deserved to win this year's NBA Slam Dunk contest. But one thing that can't be debated, Kia appears to be the big winner of the night. With the NBA's fanhood reaching Jordan-like levels, this year's 'AllStar Saturday Night'? (Skills Challenge, Three Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest) was the most watched in the event's 26 year history according to TNT, drawing 8.1 million total viewers (5.1 million households and a 4.4 rating). The broadcast peaked at 10.4 total viewers while the Crenshaw Elite Choir sang 'I Believe I Can Fly'? as Griffin leaped over the hood of a Kia Optima for his final dunk of the night. CNBC's Darren Rovell reported earlier today that consideration for Kia spiked significantly with Edmunds.com reporting a 20% increase in consideration for Kia on the day after the Slam Dunk contest compared to an average Sunday.  Consumers were twice as likely (104%) to consider buying the Optima Sedan ' the specific vehicle that Griffin dunked over. And let's be clear, this was very much a planned product integration. CNBC reports that the arrangement was made weeks before the contest between Kia, Kia's Agency IMG, and Griffin's management company. Rovell reported that 'As part of the deal, Griffin and Kia agreed to have a more formal relationship if the dunk was pulled off and he won the contest, which he did.'? So not only has Griffin re-energized one of the most miserable NBA franchises in the league this season (I'm eagerly anticipating seeing the 'Blakers'? play the Celtics in a few weeks) and taken home the 'Sprite Slam Dunk Championship'? trophy, but he's also secured a new endorsement deal. I look forward to seeing the Griffin Kia commercials, and I can't wait to see the official sales data for Optima's purchased in the month after the dunk contest. I'm also looking forward to the copycat dunk videos on YouTube.

Reverberations from 'The Decision'?

What may prove to be the most 'decisive'? moment of LeBron James' life has passed. The buzz has died down a bit, and to a smaller degree, the outrage has even started to lessen. But, I've been wondering from a marketer's POV, what was the immediate impact of LeBron's choice besides the $6MM salary cut, the burning jerseys in Ohio and the catalogs of negative commentary? #1 ' People Watched In a media world fueled primarily by ratings, The Decision delivered as 9.95 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen ratings. That's the highest rating of this calendar year for ESPN for a non-NFL broadcast according to the Wall Street Journal, which compared the broadcast's 9.6 rating with other recent notable athlete interviews. '[It] dwarfed other athlete-related spectacles. ESPN's telecast of Tiger Woods's first public comments about his marital infidelities scored a 1.3 rating, while its exclusive March interview with him posted a 0.4 rating. ESPN's interview last February with Yankees star and admitted steroid user Alex Rodriguez generated a 0.9 rating.'? #2 ' LeBron = Money The biggest winners of the LeBrocalypse were clearly the Miami Heat whose season ticket allotment sold out before LeBron even sat down with Jim Gray, but they're not the only ones who benefitted financially form the spectacle. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls both sold nearly 3,000 new season tickets before the announcement with many of these attributed to the 'maybe'? of LeBron joining their team. Even the Cavs took steps to ensure they would fill seats by requiring current season tickets holders to re-up for the 2010/2011 in March. Months before the Decision was made. Additionally, the week after he signed, CNBC reported that 'James' Heat No. 6 jersey was the most popular seller, with jerseys being ordered in all 50 states (yes, including Ohio) and 26 countries.'? And, we can't dismiss that LeBron raised nearly $3MM for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America through paid advertisements from sponsors including McDonalds, the University of Phoenix, Bing and Vitaminwater. #3 ' The LeBron Brand May Not Have Suffered'?¦ As Much As We Think I know a lot of other AMPers will argue this point, but according to the same CNBC article, James has come out of the Decision as 'more influential'? with 'the population [being] more aware of him in general'? as determined by a Celebrity Davie-Brown Index poll. Granted his popularity among those who previously knew him has fallen: Appeal rating went from 71.5% to  60.5% Opinion of him as a trendsetter from 65.2% to 64.6% Opinion of him as a trustworthy figure from 56.6% to 53.0% But, LeBron's marks as a viable endorser did not significantly fall - from 69.9% to 67.6% of the population. So, from my perspective (and I will caveat that I was fully caught up in the spectacle), LeBron definitely made a bad 'decision'? on how to make his announcement, but the 'decision'? itself looks like it may be the right one for him to grow his brand. As evidenced above, there's no question he has the audience, can generate funds and he is still a viable endorser. The only question, is he destined to be a NBA champion? *Blogger Disclosure: I firmly believe that the Celtics Big Three can take out Miami's. See you in the playoffs LeBron!

Tweet Dreams

Wash face. Brush teeth. Set alarm. Lights out. Check Twitter. Update Facebook status. Fall asleep. Wake up. Turn off alarm. Check email. Check weather. Check Facebook. Get out of bed. Does this routine sound familiar? We may not all admit it openly, but our mobile devices have slowly become a very large part of some of the more formerly sacred moment of our lives'?¦ including in bed. In a recent survey of 1000 social media users by Retrevo, 48% admitted to checking Facebook or Twitter after they went to bed. And shockingly, 11% of under 25's said they've accepted a text during more 'intimate'? moments. As 24/7 accessibility continues to be the norm, will a status update of 'sleeping'? just mean we should text instead of calling? Should makers of sleep aids be targeting the 2-4am time period with Facebook social ads? And should the mattresses of tomorrow come with a pillow for your smartphone? I tried to draw the line last night and prove to myself that I wasn't a part of the 48%, but just after shutting my iPhone off for the evening, I remembered that the device doubles as my alarm. So powering back up, I was met with a text'?¦ that I responded to'?¦ in bed. What about you? Are there any times when you actually turn off your phone? Or refuse to answer the chirp of a text message, or the vibration of a new email? And, if you're potentially lying awake in bed right now reading this, wouldn't you rather be sleeping?

There's a Badge for That?

As the Boy Scouts of America celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, they serve as an interesting case study for brand's adapting, or trying to adapt, to meet the changing needs of their audience. Facing a continuous drop in membership (only 2.8 million members as of 2009), the Boy Scouts of America are making small strides in embracing their consumer target ' digitally connected boys ' with the introduction of a new Video Game badge. Before you start a campfire of concern, I should caveat that the achievement itself isn't technically a badge ' it is awarded as a 'belt loop'? or 'pin'? ' and it isn't for defeating Radec to conquer Killzone 2. To get the Video Games Belt Loop, Cub Scouts must explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games, create (and follow) a schedule that balances playing games with homework and chores, and learn to play any new video game that is approved by a parent, guardian, or teacher. To earn the Video Games Academics Pin (for boys up to fifth grade), Scouts must complete five of the following requirements: With your parents, create a plan to buy a video game that is right for your age group. Compare two game systems (for example, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and so on). Explain some of the differences between the two. List good reasons to purchase or use a game system. Play a video game with family members in a family tournament. Teach an adult or a friend how to play a video game. List at least five tips that would help someone who was learning how to play your favorite video game. Play an appropriate video game with a friend for one hour. Play a video game that will help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork. Choose a game you might like to purchase. Compare the price for this game at three different stores. Decide which store has the best deal. In your decision, be sure to consider things like the store return policy and manufacturer's warranty. With an adult's supervision, install a gaming system. So while core principles of the organization - think camping, tying knots or soap box derbys ' remain core to the Boy Scouts missions, the organization is trying to stay relevant with their audience. Relevancy is paramount to a brand's success. We're all aware that brands must adapt over time in order to stay relevant with their audience and to ultimately remain successful. Recently, we've seen Gatorade introduce their new 3-part G Series of products and Starbucks extend their brand into the instant, at-home marketplace. With 100 years of brand history at stake, is this latest effort by the Scouts enough to 'power-up'? their membership numbers and help make the Boy Scouts relevant again?

The Coolest 'Pad on Campus

Seton Hill University, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, is putting a spin on the old practice of students giving teachers apples in hope of better grades. Starting in the fall of 2010, Seton Hill will be giving all full-time students a 13" Apple MacBook laptop and an iPad. Promoted as part of the University's Griffin Technology Advantage Program, the school has stated that "This new program provides students with the best in technology and collaborative learning tools, ensuring that Seton Hill students will be uniquely suited to whatever careers they choose - even those that have not yet been created." Students will have access to these devices for class work and personal use, and will receive a new laptop after two years (which they get to keep upon graduation). What's this mean for marketers? For starters, it's further confirmation that college students are media accessible at almost every waking moment. The 2009 Alloy College Explorer study found that on average college students are collectively spending up to 12 hours interacting with different types of media, usually multi-tasking across their phone, computer, gaming device, etc. The iPad may be the next big step in media convergence - a portable, one-stop media device. At the least, it's a vote of confidence in the iPad's functional benefits. Seton Hill is banking on the fact that the device has real utility for learning / work - possibly a pre-cursor to companies following suit and distributing iPads as a less expensive alternative to laptops. With iPad sales kicking off this weekend, who else do you think will be jumping on the iPad bandwagon? Are you planning on getting one? Who knows, we may all be working off of tablets rather laptops before the class of 2010 graduates.

  • 1 min read
  • March 31, 2010

The Coolest 'Pad on Campus

Seton Hill University, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, is putting a spin on the old practice of students giving teachers apples in hope of better grades. Starting in the fall of 2010, Seton Hill will be giving all full-time students a 13" Apple MacBook laptop and an iPad. Promoted as part of the University's Griffin Technology Advantage Program, the school has stated that "This new program provides students with the best in technology and collaborative learning tools, ensuring that Seton Hill students will be uniquely suited to whatever careers they choose - even those that have not yet been created." Students will have access to these devices for class work and personal use, and will receive a new laptop after two years (which they get to keep upon graduation). What's this mean for marketers? For starters, it's further confirmation that college students are media accessible at almost every waking moment. The 2009 Alloy College Explorer study found that on average college students are collectively spending up to 12 hours interacting with different types of media, usually multi-tasking across their phone, computer, gaming device, etc. The iPad may be the next big step in media convergence - a portable, one-stop media device. At the least, it's a vote of confidence in the iPad's functional benefits. Seton Hill is banking on the fact that the device has real utility for learning / work - possibly a pre-cursor to companies following suit and distributing iPads as a less expensive alternative to laptops. With iPad sales kicking off this weekend, who else do you think will be jumping on the iPad bandwagon? Are you planning on getting one? Who knows, we may all be working off of tablets rather laptops before the class of 2010 graduates.

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