Be the search engine.

Thanks to technologies like smart phones, GPS and even older tools like laptops, the digital world freed itself from our desktops long ago and continues to merge with the real world at an ever-accelerating pace.

You’ll recall our discussion of foursquare, a location-based social networking game played with an iPhone. Today’s link is to a similar phenomenon called geocaching.

Unlike foursquare, where players “check in” wherever they go or pass on tips to other players, geocaching adds an additional physical element: it’s essentially an ongoing scavenger hunt in which you use your GPS-equipped smart phone to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors. Upon doing so, you might sign a guest book, or take a souvenir from the geocache and leave something for the next person to find, or take a photo and post it online. Essentially you become part of a community of explorers, who also happen to be total strangers.

Why should this matter to us? The main reason is that it’s another example of social behavior and people’s love of discovery, both of which inform many successful launch campaigns these days. In a sense, the mysterious posters that formed part of the Halo 3 ODST launch we wrote about last month were a form of geocache.

Could we use the idea of geocaching as part of, say, a scavenger hunt for one of our clients? Sure. And as you’ll see if you explore the geocache site, there’s no shortage of geocaches around our city right now. Check out the site here.

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Filed under GPS, Mobile Devices

In search of QR Codes.

QR codes have come up in discussion more and more lately, which makes today’s link quite timely. It’s the story of one company’s QR-code-based scavenger hunt, run at the recent South By South West (SXSW) conference in Austin.

You may recall our previous posts in which we talked about QR (Quick Response) code applications: they’re those square bar code-looking things you see in the Metro newspaper, among other places. When you point a smart phone at them and take a picture, the QR code sends your phone to a web site or delivers text information.

In this particular example, the scavenger hunt was simple, quick and local, and offered a back-up to the QR codes. This not only made the experience a success for the companies involved. It made it a good learning experience for us.

Here’s the full story.

And here’s a video of the hunt in action. Happy hunting!

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Filed under QR Codes

Simple Equals Engaging.

One of digital advertising’s main strengths is its ability to engage people and cause them to spend time with your brand. For this reason, many people make the mistake of thinking a successful digital idea has to be deep and complex. Sure, it can be, but just as with other media, a simple idea executed well online can punch above its weight in terms of engagement and information delivery.

For example, this week I happened to be gleefully ripping into a Sun-Rype fruit snack when I noticed this line on the package: “What’s in your fruit snack? findoutnow.ca.”

findoutnow.ca turned out to be a single flash-based page highlighting the point of difference in Sun-Rype fruit snacks in a simple, interesting way. The page got right to the point, and contained just three additional links: to Sun-Rype’s twitter feed, Youtube video feed and main web site.

Just proves that simple and smart wins, no matter what the media. Check out the site and see if you don’t find yourself spending at least a couple minutes with the information.

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Filed under Sites

Banners as Destinations.

There’s a tendency to think of banners as ‘ad units.’ To me this is selling the medium short. Instead, we should be thinking of banners as web sites.

Consider: one of the key measures of a banner’s success is the time the viewer spends actively engaged with it. We have the potential to maximize that time with a type of banner we call “rich media.” These are banners that ask the viewer to do something (roll over, click, take an action of some sort) and then reward those viewers with an interesting, fun or innovative experience.

In a recent survey for the travel industry, Eyeblaster found that people were more than 2.5 times more likely to click on a rich media banner than on a static banner.

Last week, we launched an expanding banner for High Liner’s new Pan Sear Selects. The banner featured multiple videos, downloadable recipes, shopping list and coupon, and a newsletter sign-up. Viewers interacted with the banner almost ten times longer than average – which only proves that if we think of banners as a means to deliver an experience, consumers will respond. You can see the banner here.

The thing to remember is that anything we can do in a web site, we can do in a rich media banner. Today’s links are a case in point: first, a banner for Mentos teeth whitening gum that actually takes control of your web cam to make a video – all within the banner space.

Second, a banner for Smart which allows the viewer to create their own version of the car, then post it for the next banner viewer to see.

Of course, the onus lies not just with us to think of banners this way, but with our media partners and clients too – by looking to place banners on the web sites that support rich media. When we do, we open up a great many more creative and business opportunities.

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Filed under Banners, Rich Media

Mobile apps from big clients.

If you pick up CA Interactive Annual #16 (in stores now) you will notice two things. First, that one of the judges is from JWT (Ingrid Bernstein, Digital Strategy Director at JWT New York). Second, a large number of the winners are mobile apps – far more than I’ve seen in any previous annual, and clearly a growing trend.

The following links are not to those winners. Instead, they’re to interviews with clients; specifically clients charged with developing successful mobile applications at their own companies. Both the thinking behind their new apps, as well as the findings and best practices they reveal, are further great examples of the experiences we can deliver to consumers through an iPhone.

Ed Kaczmarek, Director of Innovation, Consumer Experience at Kraft Foods talks about Kraft’s iFood Assistant app.

Amanda Mahan, Digital Creative Director at Clorox reveals the thinking behind the Clorox iStain app.

Bonus link: As you may have heard, Starbucks has partnered with location-based social gaming app foursquare to experiment with customer rewards programs. Depending on where they take this, it could represent a whole new way to merge rewards programs and mobile technology.

Bonus link #2: The CA Interactive Annual winners.

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Filed under Apps, Foursquare, Mobile Devices

When games go viral.

We’ve all heard the term “viral” as it applies to a video, ad campaign or idea – something so interesting and unique that people tell everyone else they know about it.

The secret to viral ideas is that they aren’t about social media, but about social behavior. Their success depends on the average human’s love of sharing cool things amongst friends and colleagues. Similarly, when confronted with a mystery, people will band together to share clues. And the web, through twitter, facebook, chat rooms etc, facilitates that.

Case in point is today’s link; a find by Gavin Wiggins: the story of an alternate reality game, or ARG, from MacLaren McCann developed specifically to bring gamers to the launch party for Halo 3 ODST.

Alternate Reality Games combine elements of the web, the real world and mobile technology to create a story that is affected by the participants’ own actions. In this case, the agency created a scavenger hunt combining youtube videos, an IP address, GPS co-ordinates, physical clues, an SMS number, QR codes and cryptic text messages. Whoever figured out the secrets of the game got VIP access to the launch party.

The idea quickly went viral: gamers shared the clues and their solutions with each other and figured it all out, almost doubling attendance goals.

Although this happened last fall, it’s still a really interesting example of how to combine various elements to create an alternate reality game that tech-savvy consumers enthusiastically work together to solve.

Check out the brief article and video here.

And a higher resolution version of the video here.

One can see how we could develop such a concept for, say, Walmart’s electronics department or for a brand like Crush or Trident or Stride. The reality is, the only limit is our imagination.

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Filed under alternate reality game, Mobile Devices, QR Codes, Social networking, viral

Practical Applications for Augmented Reality.

In previous posts we’ve linked to examples of Augmented Reality, like the recent Esquire magazine which provided an enhanced experience via your computer screen, or that building in Japan with the giant Quick Response code on the front. But what about more practical uses for this technology – and by “practical” I mean applications that can help our clients sell stuff?

Today we link to several such examples. First up, a blog post written by Eric Tsai over at My Venture Pad. Eric has some interesting things to say about what’s out there, and has included three videos, each of which shows a different use of Augmented Reality technology.

The first video is a little long but shows some cool things that can be done with maps and the natural inclination of many on the web to share information. The second two are quite short and demonstrate how some companies are enhancing the pre-and post-purchase experience for their consumers.

Eric also mentions an Augmented Reality mobile app from Yelp called Monocle, that overlays real-time information, including reviews, about businesses at which you point your iPhone. Check it out, one of the first Augmented Reality mobile apps, in this video and this video.

The moral of the story is that there are many ways for our clients to enhance their consumers’ experiences – both online and, soon, in the real world. All they need are the ideas from us.

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Filed under Augmented Reality, Mobile Devices