This VAIO Is Not Mine

When I first saw this online ad a few days ago, it got my attention and a clickthrough. Given the fact that even Dell recently realized that plastic comes in more than one colour, I thought it was nice to see yet another PC company trying to compete in terms of product design.

Sadly, once you get to the site, you realize the ad's a huge over promise. Turns out that what the fancy Photoshop work is trying to tell you is that you'll be able to choose your laptop's components (nothing new) and then, drumroll please ... inscribe two lines of text just North of the Esc key. Ooooh, someone call Apple and see if they can do something with this! (Sorry for the two Apple posts in one day, but if nothing else, strictly on an online marketing level, they certainly paint a juxtaposition, don't they?)

Now, I realize that a lot of good advertising deals in metaphor, but I don't think it's particularly working here. After all, there are many companies out there that, for example, will allow you to do things like sending in your own designs to personalize a snowboard. And Nike's been letting kids embroider their name on the back of a pair shoes for years. That is, of course, as long as said kids' names don't translate to a political statement or a tirade against global capitalism :-)

At first, I thought I was missing something. The page where you'd be able to design your laptop's cover, even from a predetermined set of images like the new design-your-own-card site from Starbucks. I haven't found it yet, but I did find this in their handy FAQ:

How can I personalize my VAIO® Notebook PC?

To truly make this VAIO® Notebook PC your own, you’ll want to put your stamp on it. You have the option to engrave a personal message directly onto your VAIO® Notebook PC, up to 30 characters. Preview your message as it will appear on your VAIO® Notebook PC. You can also select the colour of your VAIO® Notebook PC. however, colour options wil differ according to the base model.

The extreme personalization options are almost palpable.

Mac Online Ad

I like this online ad from Apple which extends their John Hodgman / Justin Long TV campaign to the web (Saul Hansell has a post about it in NYT Bits today). I like it because even though this has been possible for a while -- buying more than one space on a page and having the ads play off of each other -- more often than not, it feels forced and more Flash experiment than ad creative. This is a great execution, and a real nice way of integrating the offline talent. You can see a YouTube video of it here.


Welcome to Your Happy Place

I've worked on the web for a while now and I've built my share of sites, but when I came across this one, I experienced a 50/50 combination of wonder and a immense relief that I wasn't the one with the responsibility of launching this bad boy into the world.

I'm referring to CleanIsHappy.com, a website for the Washlet. What is the Washlet? I'm thinking that you already have a good mental picture, but I won't spoil the fun of exploring the site for yourself. I'll just walk you through a few of my favourite parts.

First, there's the site's main navigation which, of course, had to include people's faces. Here's the scene in my head of how the talent negotiations went down. Everybody except one person said, "I'll do anything for this Washlet thing as long as nowhere on the site is there a simultaneous occurrence of my face, a toilet, and the word happiness".

Sooner or later in this sales pitch, you're going to be wondering the exact logistics of just how the Washlet gets things done. And that's where the illustrative 3D animation comes in to close the deal.

But, by far, my favourite part was this bit of assuring voiceover:

Washlet makes it all so easy.
You just sit down. Do what you came to do.
And then ... you reach for the remote!


Yes, the remote. A thing of beauty. And I'm thinking that if you're the type of person who has ever dialed a pay phone with your elbow, this is your nightmare for tonight :-)

All in all, I loved every minute I spent on this site. I'm sure I doubled their traffic stats for that week alone. And speaking of stats, if nothing else, they must have had one of the most successful ad campaigns in terms of clickthrough when the ads driving to this site looked like this:

Thank you, Washlet, you've made my afternoon. And one other good thing has come out of this. When I sent the URL on to the wise Mr. William Azaroff, he was inspired to coin the phrase:

Yeah, that's crazy. But is it Washlet crazy?

I really hope it catches on with the kids.


3D Learnin'

Check out this series of interactive learning tools that were created to accompany "Prentice Hall's middle grades science program". Apparently, close to a 100 were developed, so this is just a sample which includes things like the solar system and seismic waves. My favourite, though, is the catapult simulator, which taught me everything I needed to know about medieval trajectories.

This kind of makes me wish I was back in elementary school again. In my day, all we had for "interactive learning" was a sharpened stick and a potato.

Ralph Lauren Stories

This is kind of a neat take on user-submitted content from the folks over at RalphLauren.com. To celebrate the company's 40th anniversary, they're asking people to share how the label has played a part in their lives -- "whether it's a story about the first time you wore a Polo shirt or the Ralph Lauren suit you wore to your first job".

I found out about this through their e-newsletter (which, truth be told, they use a bit like a machine gun and could be a bit more selective with) and caught my attention because it didn't fit the usual weekly email template. The site's nicely designed, but the let-down is that it's not actually a site, just a couple of pages where you can upload your story along with an image or video. That's it.

The promise is that somewhere down the road, selected stories will make it onto RalphLauren.com, but it feels like an opportunity missed. Even if they were concerned about some questionable submissions; with a proper moderation step in between, they could allow these things to go live much sooner, adding some potentially interesting content to their site.


Extreme Wii

I'm sure the in-house lawyers wouldn't have allowed Nintendo to take advantage of this, but it seems that if they did, this would've made for a great advertising campaign. Luckily, thanks to the web, someone else went ahead and did it for them.

Wii Have a Problem has more than a hundred posts of things that happened when people got a bit too immersed in the new console's controller. As of today, the site has 25 broken TVs, 19 lamps, and interestingly enough, 1 fireplace.

Just in Time for Father's Day

20ltd.com is a new website with a certain un-Amazon take on online shopping. Their concept is to carry only 20 items at a time, all in limited editions of forty or less. As soon as an item completely sells out, its spot gets filled by a new one.

It's a beautifully-designed site that's worth a visit just for the streaming soundtrack alone. And if you've been running around town looking for a $20,000 chess set for your pops, relax, it's number 15.

If my son is reading this, first of all, get off the web, you're not even a year old (and certainly don't look in the bookmarks folder called "research"). And also -- hint, hint ...


Love Letter to the Web: The Sartorialist

This is one of those "things I love about the web" posts. Scott Schuman is a guy who grew up in Indiana and moved to New York to work in the fashion industry. He ran a showroom for a while, but when he and his wife had kids, he decided to stay home in order to raise them. That's when his fashion career took off.

A self-taught photographer who'd never really taken pictures until his daughters were born, he started taking snapshots around NYC of people whose style caught his eye. About a year and a half ago, he created a blog on Blogger and began putting up these photographs along with quick commentaries on what he liked about each one. Well, the site caught on and recently reached a million monthly page views, with certain entries easily garnering more than a hundred comments.

This certainly hasn't gone unnoticed and so, a few months ago, Scott received his own Sartorialist column in GQ, was sent to Europe by Conde Nast's Style.com to supplement their fashion week coverage, and the editor of French Vogue is calling him to discuss projects :-)

I love this story. Here's a guy who pursued a passion to do something that he wasn't being paid for, and thanks to the web, has built a devoted audience of millions. Which, in turn, has turned into a paying job, doing what he loves. His blog, in essence, turned out to be a living, breathing, year-long job resume. I love it!

Here's a recent article about Mr. Schuman from the New York Post.


Writing about what a cool idea Pandora is, is nothing new, but it's certainly worth writing if it gets more people to check it out. Especially given their current struggles with Washington, they could certainly use the support.

For those who don't know about it, Pandora's a site put together by the Music Genome Project which is a group working to analyze music down to its basic DNA. Sounds a little out there, but if done properly, one of the things this allows you to do is take music you already like and follow its structure to similar music that you might not yet know about, but will probably like as well.

That was the idea behind Pandora.com, a simple, well-built little Flash interface that lets you start with either a song or an artist in order to create a custom "station". Based on the DNA of your selection, Pandora then begins to stream similar music. As new songs are served up, you can either give them the thumbs-up or down so that they can keep crafting the station to suit you even more. You can create your own account and then keep adding songs/artists to your existing station or create entirely new stations around different genres. I started a jazz station about a year ago and I rarely give a song the thumbs-down these days.

The nice thing about these folks is that they keep improving on something already great. Each song that comes up has a menu that allows you to bookmark it or even link directly to iTunes or Amazon to buy it. One recent addition that I like is Pandora's stab at building an online community. I haven't completely explored it, but one cool thing I found so far is that you can take the song that's currently playing and find out who else is listening to it and what other types of music they're into.

Marketing in Second Life

A couple of recent articles about brands doing their avatar thing in Second Life. The first one's from BRANDWEEK and the other from Wagner James Au, a freelance journalist who's written for Salon and Wired and until recently has been an embedded reporter for Linden Lab. Also, an interesting post from Au on his blog, comparing the popularity of some of these branded ventures to those of their less corporate "citizens".


NBC Sees the Future

I went to nbc.com today and given the amount of content that I'm sure is always fighting for space on the homepage, it's actually pretty well done. However, there was something there today that I thought was pretty funny. Right above their usual "what's on tonight" ticker,

is a little teaser of their upcoming online plans:

which then links through to this wicked-awesome bundle of things that you and your friends from the future will be able to do with the the help of the NBC Corporation:

"Hey all my buddies, come and check out my personalized profile ... and don't forget the widgets!!"

It's like someone went to a social networking seminar and when they got the handout at the end, went straight for the Glossary page at the back :-)

Now, I know that more and more marketers are looking for ways to benefit from social media, and kudos to NBC for giving it their own kick at the can. I just found this thing kind of cute, and a little sad. You can almost see the boardroom meeting at the head office:

"So, does anybody know what the kids are into these days?"
"Social networking, sir."
"Great, let's get some of it ... and tell them it's coming soon!"


Mentos Pop Art

Mentos recently launched a campaign for their new gum. The gum is quite good and so is the campaign. It's built around the idea of people creating art with the patterns that are made by popping the gum out of the grid of its packaging.

The TV spot shows an artist creating a mural out of hundreds of Mentos packs. The campaign microsite allows people to make their own art within a Flash interface and submit it for voting by other visitors to the site.

YouChoose 2008

Here's something you didn't see before Al Gore invented the internet. A YouTube channel dedicated to campaign ads and videos related to the 2008 US elections. Could LonelyKucinich15 be far behind?

700 Hoboes ... and Counting

This is one of my favourite web stories. A few years back, John Hodgman published a book titled The Areas of My Expertise, a collection of random things, one of which was a list of the 700 all-time greatest hobo names. Soon after, people started posting illustrations of their interpretations of these names on Flickr and tagging them with "700hoboes".

At this point, all 700 have been illustrated at least once, with over a hundred people submitting a picture. The whole thing even has it's own site at e-hobo.com. Here's an interview with Adam Koford who initially set up the Flickr group.

Le Duel

An amazing Flash animation from club internet where the duel starts out in a small video panel and then spills out to the rest of the page. It must have taken a good dose of imagination and planning ahead of time to get it made.



Even though this site was launched a while back, I'm still telling everyone about it. I like how it's built around a simple concept that you can describe in five seconds and then spend five minutes playing around with.

The thing that I really like about it, though, is all of the stuff it says without having to come right out and beat you over the head with it. First, the general message of the microsite is "this soap is so good, it's good enough to clean your conscience, let alone your hands". But then, given method's overall philosophy around the environment, the whole "good karma" angle is a great undertone.


Animated Creep

A great animation set to Radiohead's Creep.


Shaving KITT

If you ever felt the need to inflict pain on Mr. Baywatch, here's your chance. This is a microsite that promotes Knight Rider on TV1 by letting you go all wax-strip on Hoff's chest.


eLetters to the Editor

Interesting article in Salon from a few days ago about the impact that online feedback is having on today's journalism.

Chevy's Commercial Break

There was a good article in the December WIRED about the campaign Chevy ran last year to promote their new Tahoe SUV. I remember reading all of the bad press they got relating to some of the negative ads that people had submitted, which (of course) then circulated like wildfire on YouTube :-)

You could see how things like this would have most companies running for the door when it came to the idea of user-submitted content. What's interesting about the WIRED piece, though, is the fact that the Tahoe contest itself drew more than 30,000 entries, vast majority of which were positive. It's a good read for anyone considering going in that direction with their brand.

Sun-Rype's FindOutNow.ca

I recently got an email from Vitamin V under the "Prescribed Dose" umbrella which, if I remember correctly, is a separate mailing they do with paid content. This one was for Sun-Rype, promoting their "Find Out Now" campaign which talks about the fact that most of their competitors' products don't actually have all that much fruit in them.

Now, the email itself isn't all that fantastic since it doesn't have the same tone as the usual Vitamin V stuff. Also, it's a little too "you go girl" condescending -- how does Sun-Rype know that I'm "a jet-set gal on the go"?

The site that it leads to, though, is really good (the URL could be better since FindOutNow.ca sounds like a PETA site asking you to sign a petition). What's great about it is that they decided to have only one goal for the whole microsite -- to tell you in a simple, visual way what does

and doesn't go into Sun-Rype's "Fruit to Go" bars.

The art direction's great, there is no navigation as the site simply follows the movement of your mouse, and it's really light on copy. Even if you don't read any of the descriptions of chemicals that don't go into the product, in a minute or two on the site, you inherently know that the "good stuff" goes in and the "bad stuff" doesn't. Next time a jet-set gal's in that aisle of the grocery store, there's a good chance this will pop out of the ol' subconscious.

For those committed souls, there's an option to click through to the Sun-Rype site for more information, but most will leave at this point, and that's fine because the microsite's job is done and anything beyond that is probably talking past the sale.