Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bonkers ham commercials

My father just pointed out a ludicrous piece of advertising from Emmett's ham. The cover of their current catalogue shows a range of very expensive cooked  meats strewn out over bales of wheat straw. Not sure when the advertisers were last on a farm, but bales of straw I've seen are full of bugs breaking things down. Presumably they sterilized those hams before selling them? What a poor example of food hygiene.

And I wouldn't think about putting hams costing 39 quid a kilo on the ground in the woods, would you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Skiing at night to promote Philips Amberlight TV

So how do you sell a television in 2014? Sony tried coloured balls back in 2010.

Now Philips is skiing down hills using LED backpacks. This is the backstory....

that made this final result:

This is infact a short version - the original is 12 minutes.

Great visual effects - but the story is lost on me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Content is power - which is why The Grid intrigues me

It's almost like a DIY Kickstarter project.

What if websites could design themselves? That's the promise of The Grid, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to take everything you throw at it - videos, images, text, urls and more - and automatically shape them into a custom website that's unique to you. As your needs grow, it evolves with you, effortlessly adapting to your needs.

Their algorithms apparently analyze your media and apply color palettes that keep your messaging consistent and unique. The Grid also detects color contrasts, automatically adjusting typographic color to maximize legibility.

What's possible when an AI does all the hard work for you? You can get things done, even on the go. Drag-n-drop builders don't play nice with fingers on phones, but AI works perfectly, anywhere.

Never again change your content to fit your template or the latest hot mobile device. The layout changes as you add content, and adapts to look great and work flawlessly no matter where your users find you.

It’s as easy as that. Actually, it’s incredibly complicated, but The Grid figures it out, so you don’t have to.

Joining the evolution has a price - 96 dollars up front - but that works out at US$8 a month for the first year. Sign-up is at Follow for the latest. Hope they make it. I signed up and I'll be reporting my experiences warts and all. But personally, I just hope they are going to be saving me a whole bunch of time.

Small Empires Season Two

Delighted to see the return of Small Empires and to see that they've been visiting the top Innovation Districts in North America. Europe in Season 3?

Episode 1 visits Open English in Miami, a company that started in Caracas.

Episode 2 takes us a brewery platform in Connecticut

Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

Post by NOS.

I was impressed with the video that the NOS made to illustrate the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Swimming Robots seen in Stuttgart

A team led by Prof. Peer Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany ] has developed an artificial micro-swimmer, called “micro-scallop”, which can swim through viscous fluids by opening and closing its shells at different rates. Doesn't work in water. But these tiny "scallops" can swim in blood.

Mystery behind Amsterdam Mist - Bert Monroy

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The art of powerful storytelling

I'm currently looking at how different professionals around the world pass on their skills to interested members of the public. I feel that many of the standard "master class courses" are flawed, especially in my sector of broadcast storytelling. Screens have replaced chalk, but rather than "show" people what is possible, there is still a lot of "telling". And because things have become very formulaic, we're repeating too many of the old ideas which don't work in a world where sharing has replaced shouting. I note that trainees from many "developing countries" are more developed than we are.

I've long been a fan of the TWIT network, founded by radio broadcaster Leo Laporte. He has grown his "deep-dive" network of tech shows into a modern equivalent of what we were trying to do in Hilversum from 1980-2000 with Media Network. But although I like the pundit shows like This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly or This Week in Google, I must confess that the hour-long in-depth interview programme "Triangulation" is the show that I set aside time to watch on an iPad. A recent case in point is the discussion with hyper-realist artist Bert Monroy. Born in New York City, he now lives in Berkeley, California.

Bert on the power of sharing

While we were messing around in Europe with the early Mac's in 1984 to see what they could do for radio guys, Bert was starting a new digital career, looking at the possibilities of MacPaint, which turned from being a toy into programs like Photoshop, Pixelpaint, Illustrator and Imagestudio which modern artists rely on today. 

Bert is different from many artists in that he shares his techniques, encouraging others to apply them in their own works. A lot of the knowledge is given away. Which leads people to inexpensive digital master classes on the excellent knowledge site He doesn't need to be afraid of imitators - I know of few people who put so much time and effort into their work.This recent edition of Triangulation caught my eye because of Bert's discussion of his latest digital work called Amsterdam Mist. It's a digital creation based on a simple, rather blurry image he took on Radhuisstraat, a rather non-descript bridge on the West side of Amsterdam near the Westerkerk church. I've been over the bridge many times in a tram but never really paused to look down the canal at that point. Perhaps that explains why I don't have my own picture to hand, even though I have hundreds of pictures of the city.

The bridge on the Radhuisstraat via Google Maps

The same bridge in summer via Google Maps

Around 41 minutes into the Triangulation program, Bert starts explaining the making of Amsterdam Mist. You're invited to explore and as you zoom in, so the mist clears and the incredible detail becomes clear.

Bert points out a few Easter Eggs - his first book in the bike basket, there's a logo of on the same bike, many of the license-plates on cars reflect the travels of the artist.

Hidden Easter eggs on a remarkably clean bicycle
License plates have a hidden meaning

His website also explains the impact that Google maps had on the work. 

My Amsterdam Mist is the culmination of twenty-two months of work. Every element in the image was meticulously created pixel-by-pixel using Adobe® Photoshop® and Adobe® Illustrator®.
It is the first piece to be inspired by the shot rather than the scene itself.

Each tree took an average of ten days to create. Extensive research was done to ensure the authenticity of the scene. The reference for the trucks, cars and bicycles was done by doing a Google search for European models of each. The boats were boats that appeared in other images taken by me during the visit to Amsterdam. The original shot had very little detail. The day was overcast and the shot was done with a hand held point-and-shoot camera. All the details were nothing more than a blur.

One of the more unusual facts about this piece is how the details of the buildings were researched. The scene was photographed while walking from one place to another. In Google maps, the two locations were plotted allowing me to determine the precise place where the original shot was taken (middle figure). Using Google Street View, details of the structures were researched by strolling up and down the streets on either side of the actual canal.

Be careful, you can spend hours absorbed in this picture - especially if you put it on a large monitor. But it may encourage you to try to experiment yourself.

I have also been using Google Street View to capture stories from people which otherwise would not have been rediscovered. Contact me if you're interested in how it's done.

In the meantime, thanks to Bert for creating an adventure just round the corner.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Daniel Erasmus - we have a leadership problem not a climate-change problem

Daniel Erasmus has run a digital thinking network for several years and through his work I got introduced to people like Douglas Rushkoff as well as Brewster Kahle of fame. Curious to find out what the young leaders in the Nudge network decided - did they adopt more ambitious action goals that adult negotiators?

Meanwhile Norwegian broadcast NRK has broadcast a weather forecast for the country for 2050, assuming a global warming of 2 degrees Centigrade.

Forecaster Bente Wahl has received a storm of reactions after NRK published her forecast for 2050. A few are also puzzled by the project: - How can Wahl give an accurate weather alert for the year 2050 when she can not even give an accurate forecast for the next few days?

Tony Fadell on the challenges of rolling out NEST in Europe.

Personally, I think the Dublin Web Summit has grown too fast. From 400 to 22,000 attendees in just four years. It's a marketing triumph, which is great for the founders who I met in Paris around the time they were starting out, and LeWeb was number one.

But now, it means a lot of sales pitches to sift through to find the interesting talks. They have also cut the length of the interviews so much that no-one really goes in to depth. I think that's a shame. Quality not quantity, especially because the main attraction of the summit is not the commercial keynotes - it's the live networking with start-up companies which you cannot do from home.

The interview with Tony Fadell was interesting. I note that he doesn't really talk about his early days at Philips. He didn't stay long trying to persuade them to make a personal music player. Instead, he went to Apple, who brought out the iPod. Now he's the person behind NEST, which is turning out to be much more than an intelligent thermostat. In the interview he describes the challenges of trying to role out to other countries - there are a myriad of standards. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Best Interactive Ad for 2014

In March I mentioned this ingenious use of a raspberry pi computer. It was for a shampoo. Here's a re-run of the post. But there's more to come - and it is really worth watching.

A very clever piece of interactive advertising has been dreamed up by the Stockholm advertising agency Åkestam Holst from Sweden, working with production company Stopp for Apotek Hjärtat’s Apolosophy products.

Stopp says the ad was scheduled to be run for one day only, but it was so popular that the company which owns the screens asked for it to run for the rest of the week “as a way for them to show the opportunities their screens can offer”. It turns out the billboard is driven by a Raspberry Pi computer which is still powerful enough to drive a full HD digital display and can be hooked up to respond to real-world inputs. Thanks to the Raspberry Pi blog for the tip.

Now the update, courtesy of theLocal in Stockholm

Early in October 2014, another Swedish advertising agency Garbergs snapped up the idea, hoping it could be used for the greater good. It created an eye-catching Cancer campaign and the first advert was installed in Stockholm's underground in the beginning of October. The installations were only there for two days, but a YouTube clip of the campaign (below) has had a much longer life. In less than a week it has attracted 300,000 hits. By November the number was over 2.5 million.

The focus of the project is 14-year-old Linn. As a train passes the billboard, the wind makes her hair blow so violently that it flies off her head.

That's when it becomes clear that this is not a copycat-ad. Linn was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair because of it.

The billboard then displays a message explaining that one child is diagnosed every day from cancer, and urges people to donate.

"The world shares the film not just because they think it's beautifully made, but because they think the message is beautiful," Garbergs' copywriter Sedir Ajeenah told The Local.

It is a touching message - and one that also inspires hope.