Category Archives: Mobile

Morning Musings – Complicated Connections

We are swimming in new ways to connect and beyond that, what it all actually means.

Social. Mobile. Out of Home. Digital Out of Home. Connections. Experience.

This is a complicated world that we operate in, no doubt. As brand, marketers and communicators, this world is constantly changing. As consumers, we’re unlocking new ways to connect each day, ways that we did not know were there yesterday. This sort of evolution and discovery occurs every single day.

It’s as if the Pandora’s Box of technology has opened to the point of no closure.

On one hand, it’s exciting. On another hand, it’s maddening. It’s a bombard of variables to navigate and manipulate, all in an effort to get (or deliver) the right message at the right time to do the right thing. That’s what we all want, right?

“Screens” of old are just that – old. They’re ubiquitous. They’re a commodity. Even the one in our pocket. They’re only mechanisms of delivery and engagement, but it’s in this combination where the value comes in. Delivery + engagement should = value. I know that we all define “value” differently. For each consumer, it’s different. And for each shopping scenario, it’s different. Education, entertainment, discounts, points. All good “value propositions,” but all unique, not necessarily based on points in time in the shopping journey, but based on the individual.

The individual is the biggest variable that we have now. Their familiarity with technology, their use of it, their access to it, their view of what it enables them to do, their expectations of what it can and should do. It’s easy to automatically pin all these different technologies as the primary variable in ways to connect, but it’s not. It’s the consumer.

Each one of us, as consumers, now have the ability to reach out to someone, often times a group of distant someones, immediately and create, comment on, and/or consume content. This power has shifted what value is to each of us and, even more, elevated our expectations, in terms of what it takes and means to engage with brands.

As all this relates to the “screens” outside of our homes, be them physical screens or screens made out of the places and things around us – the game changer of the world that we live in is not the technology that enables all of these “screens” to be activated, it is in what they deliver and how people can engage with it. Messages/content just pushed is noise. It’s reason to ignore that particular “screen.” What can’t be ignored is something to actively engage in, something that delivers value to that person at that point in time. That’s the thing to figure out.

Then figure out how to do it.

And that’s not new.

CETW Keynote #3 – 10 Mobile Social Trends for 2012+

These are my recap notes from the last session of the day, the closing keynote at CETW. Brought to us by David Berkowitz, VP Emerging Media at 360i. I have been following David for a couple of years as well as his agency, 360i. Every year, they put out Playbooks and Trend Reports for mobile and social and a host of others. While I find them to lack a few things, they are comprehensive and represent a voice from 360i in the market, one that I suspect has paid quite a few dividends. I am always interested to see what he/they have to say because I feel like they are on the forefront of emerging technology and not afraid to get their thoughts out there. So, I was very excited to hear David speak and give this presentation. I don’t know that the audience knew what to do with him. And it was the last session of the last day, an unfortunate slot. He was kind enough to share his presentation via slideshare, so here it is:

Here are the 10 trends and a few notes I took with each:

1. Social Fashion – real-time fashion advice

2. Tagging – everyone sees the same things differently so tagging is a way we can make consistent

3. Interactive TV – not necessarily through the TV, but through other channels. Check these apps out, if don’t know/use them already: IntoNow (my personal favorite), Umami, GetGlue

4. Q & A – see Siri.

5. Recommendations – from MY friends. Only relevant-to-me recommendations.

6. Social Context – check this app, Sonar. Kinda creepy, but kinda cool. It shows you those people around you who you have something in common with, be it friends, colleagues, interests, etc.

7. Geo-gaming – like Mafia Wars but in your own real-life neighborhood.

8. Augmented Reality – I like the way he described it. “AR adds a virtual layer over the real world.” Simple, but easy to understand.

9. Near-Field Community – this is about much more than payments. Interacting with objects and places where you are.

10. Facial Recognition

What do you think? Sound about right?

CETW Session #4 – A Match Made for Engagement: Digital Signage and Location-Based Mobile Marketing

These are my recap notes from the next-to-last session at CETW (yay!) I know Paul very well and am always interested to hear him talk about stuff. Asif is obviously very knowledgeable about mobile – it’s always refreshing to hear from people on the forefront of actually doing the work. And with something as new as mobile, his knowledge and experience are like gold. And Bradley Walker seems to be very knowledgeable about “engagement” overall. So, while the session might not have been the most appropriately named, I still found it interesting.

Speakers – Bradley Walker, Asif Khan, Paul Flanigan

Emerging trends session:

For example, some of what we’re seeing are:

  1. Screen to screen interaction – interact w/ screens that people bring with them to the screens around them.
  2. Remote controls for games – use the mobile phone to control games on large screens.


Consumers today are learning new behaviors. If large companies like Apple and HP, consumers are being trained that those mobile devices are able to control other screens.

Location-based marketing is about using the actual space around to deliver content/value to consumers.

Location-based services are just that – services. Foursquare, SCVNGR, Yelp.

Technology is the commodity, content is the asset.

Location-based marketing is powerful because it can make all the content fit YOU.

The size of the screen doesn’t have much impact on consumers. The message is what does.

Bradley Walker dropped a new idea on the group – “Context appropriate presence” – think about a black hole – high concentration of gravity at the center of the “hole”

Bradley Walker's "Context Appropriate Presence" Model

Model goes from the outside > in: Brand ID/mass communication > outdoor/storefront > display/in-store > customer/product intersection


A Perfect Use for Near Field Communication in the Real World

People want personal. Especially as it relates to the idea of interacting with the physical world around them on a “screen.” This is a key reason that mobile is so powerful in its potential. It can fairly easily turn any place or thing “on” to where it is interactable. And it is the personal screen of personal screens.

The Museum of London has created an interesting experience through mobile and Near Field Communication. For anyone who’s been in a museum, I think we can all agree that the little write-ups on plaques do not provide us with the information we want about particular pieces of art. Docents are THE source of information, but the average person going to a museum does not do so with a docent. Enter Near Field Communication (NFC).

Stations at various pieces of art are equipped with NFC tags. Want to know more about the piece of art? Just tap your phone to the tag. Information given.

This technology and particular experience does allow for users to get a deeper experience of the museum as a whole (receiving vouchers for the gift shops, purchasing prints, even sharing their experience in their social channels) – which is also interesting and useful – but I love the use of this technology to fulfill a deeper need that people truly have around art in museums.

I think this is a perfect use of this technology and the museum provides the right type of physical objects to interact with. This type of experience, through this technology, instantly elevates the standard museum experience. For that, thumbs way up.

Here’s the thing to watch out for though – people go to museums to look at and experience art. Not information about the art on a mobile phone. I think it would be a travesty to walk into a museum and see everyone with their heads down, eyes glued to their mobile phones. Going full-tilt with something like this has the potential to take the emotion out of the experience, and that’s not what we want.

Enabling technologies like that can enhance our everyday, world experience. We just have to be careful to not let it drive our everyday, world experience.

Awareness Only Spaces for Interactive Everything Potential?

Maybe one of the problems with all spaces and things becoming interactive is the fact that the actual spaces and things are not set up to be interactive. That is, there are many accessibility issues that need to considered and worked through. As an example, this was an ad hanging above an escalator.

Non-accessible QR Code

The only access to the ad and the code was riding the escalator. And even though escalators escalate at a nice, slow pace, they’re moving way too fast to take an action like scanning a QR code. It was a mad scramble to do what I could to take a picture of this, much less launch an app and then scan the code.

I understand that many times, decisions for any OOH campaign at scale can’t alleviate all accessibility issues. This ad might be hanging in an extremely appropriate and accessible place in another environment. When dealing with environments and buying ad space in those varied environments, I imagine there’s a percentage of “dead” ads because of all of the spaces that they’re going to be put in. For every bad placement (one that is not accessible), perhaps there are ten good placements (with no accessibility issues.) As someone who is responsible for budgets, however, that sort of thing makes my head want to explode. I want all of them to be accessible. That’s what I’m paying for.

This is one of the challenges of all things having the ability to become interactive. This problem of accessibility is of no concern if this is a standard ad. Or a standard digital screen. Or a standard billboard. Anything that is just push messaging – it’s all about eyeballs and an ad hanging right above an escalator generates a lot of eyeballs.

But when you try to make that placement work for interactivity, it fails miserably.

So, I guess what I would say is this – if you’re going to spend money to create an interactive “thing,” be it a print ad or a digital screen or a kiosk, do a little bit of digging into the entire media buy. Do what you can to really understand all of the placements. Making something interactive nowadays can’t just be, “let’s plop a code on this or a touchscreen on this and make it interactive.” The spaces that you’re buying could be great for eyeballs, but for anything beyond that, for any action, they’re no good.

It becomes a waste of money and expectations. No way people are going to scan the QR code in this particular ad. If that is a key metric, this advertiser will have a hard time believing in this particular form of interactive, enabling technology, despite its potential. They’ll just go back to the boring ol’ awareness-only, push-messaging, let’s-get-as-many-eyeballs-on-this-as-possible mentality.

And that is not the future.

A Simple Guide for QR Codes (and Other “New” Technology)

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that there is value in QR codes. Everyone has their own definition of value, be it to get a coupon or to see product information or to become connected on Facebook. For today, we’ll just presume that the value proposition is met in order for someone to scan a QR code.

Beyond value, I think there are two key drivers or barriers (however you want to look at it) to scanning a QR code:

  1. Convenience
  2. Awkwardness


It must be convenient. This means that it really needs to be right in front of you and the proper size to scan within an arm’s length. I don’t think there’s a scientific formula that defines either; rather, I think you have to use good ol’ common sense. When printing a QR code, test it first. Put yourself in the position of the average person. If it’s not convenient for you, it’s not going to be convenient for anyone else.

The second driver/barrier is awkwardness. I have never seen anyone scan a QR code out in the public. Have you? I think, by and large, there is a sense of awkwardness that the average person doesn’t want to experience/let everyone see out in the open. I think people feel more comfortable exposing themselves to new technology in public places in as private of an environment as they can have.

If it’s convenient, it stands to reason that it won’t be too awkward. Problem is, most QR codes out in the open are not convenient, therefore extremely awkward.

So it was last night. When I was at the fast food drive-in, Sonic. There I was just sitting in my car, waiting, listening to the World Series, not much to do but look directly at this:

Sonic Menu Board without QR Code

This is what everyone sees when they’re waiting for their order at Sonic. Directly in front of them. Windows typically down, no more than a foot away. For at least two minutes.

It is the perfect scenario for a QR code.

I have time (this trumps the value prop to me) and don’t mind doing something like scanning a QR code. It’s convenient. And, given that I’m confined to my car, in my own little stall, I don’t feel awkward doing something like this out in the open.

Lucky for me there was a QR code in the vicinity. Unlucky for me, it was not right in front of me.

It was on the back of the menu board, only visible if you’re looking across your car, and only convenient for a passenger, and extremely awkward for anyone to scan, even and most importantly, the passenger.

Sonic Menu Board with QR Code

Let’s just pretend that there is value in this QR code and I really wanted to scan it. I walked away from this experience not taking that action.


Simple. Because it’s not convenient and, even more, it’s awkward.

If these are your two guides as you’re introducing any new technology out into the open, into public places, you’ll be just fine.

The Time and Technology Conundrum

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

Time is a funny thing. It keeps going. Regardless of how much value you place in it. Personally, I didn’t really learn the value of time until later in my life. Perhaps some people are instinctually tuned into how valuable their time is. Not me. I like to do many things, help many people, say yes, make time, make stuff. I think there comes a point in your life when you actually start to put a premium on time and therefore prioritize, consciously or unconsciously, all of the things you find yourself faced with.

Technology has a funny effect on time, the thing that keeps going. It seems to make it go by faster. Consumption via all these screens fast-forwards our lives in drastic proportions. Just by the shear rate of life, who has time for what content?

Ah, this pesky, key ingredient – content. What we consume and engage with on a daily basis. What we give our attention to, be it for connection or entertainment or education. TV shows, websites, blogs, videos, pictures, news feeds, texts – the sea of content is deep and easily time-suckable. How do we prioritize what content we give our time to? I think that decision is based on any of these three factors:

  1. We like the subject matter
  2. We like who makes it
  3. We have nothing else to do or have time to spare (this is hardly sticky but it is a reason to consume, to give your time to it.)


These factors are much easier to control on our personal screen. Not so much on a public one. That begs the question – what is the role of digital signage, these public screens?

And what can we expect them to really do?

Am I Right About “Innovation” in the Digital Signage Industry?

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

When I think of the future and how digital signage plays out and how mobile plays out, here’s what I think:

  1. Digital signage won’t go away. It will have its place, but to what extent – I guess that’s the question. Will it be more like billboards, where it’s primarily push? Or will it be, by and large, interactive?
  2. We won’t need digital signs to interact with the outside world because of mobile phones and tablets and their capabilities. Specifically, their capabilities to “turn anything on” and even more, provide personal experiences on a personal screen.

Mobile technologies will have a profound impact on the future of digital signage. It’s just that simple.

Part of the reason is that innovation is happening in mobile in a short amount of time. For the past few years, we’ve all been talking about whether or not this is going to be the year of mobile. Well, if we weren’t there last year, we’re certainly there this year. One of the ways you can see this is through the innovations brought to life in the mobile world. Tablets. Apps. Siri. Near Field Communication.

And while mobile’s innovations might be young, I think you can feel pretty comfortable that they’ll be around for a long, long time. As we can see in the short amount of time, creating these innovations is not confined to a select few Technorati or business minds – anyone can innovate and get that innovation out in the market place. To me, this is one key development and asset that the digital signage industry does not have yet. Innovation is confined to a few companies. It’s closed to a seemingly few, albethem brilliant in their own right, minds. It’s not the open-to-the-masses platform like mobile is. And perhaps that’s the reason its innovations and, as a result, its place in the market, have not developed to the point to where the industry has been expecting and hoping for, literally, years.

Unlike mobile, I feel like the digital signage industry will ask themselves again, in 2012, “is this the year of digital signage?” Maybe they can take a page from the mobile book and strive for open innovation, that which is brought on by the masses, not a select few.

What the Average Consumer Taught Me About Technology

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

I was hanging out with my step-dad this morning and he shed a little light on the “average” person’s familiarity and expectations with new technology, specifically with mobile technology. He’s a new owner of an iPhone, thanks to AT&T’s $49 deal that came out a few months ago and his computer usage is really centered around email, Facebook, and surfing to camping or backpacking sites via Google. He doesn’t know a lot, but he knows enough to get the information he needs on these devices. The iPhone and its power make him want to explore and expand the way he uses it, but he needs a little bit of guidance. Without that guidance, he falls into what I call, “overload paralysis.” There’s just too much out there, too much to process, to0 much to decide between, too much to search, too much to find out – it’s easy to just shut down and become paralyzed when faced with too much. I feel like this is a common state for the average consumer, and my step-dad reaffirmed my belief.

These types of consumers have different expectations from technology than those of us who are immersed in it day in and day out. And this is what my conversation really shed some light on.

Here’s how our conversation went:

Step-dad (SD): Mike, I’d like to pick your brain a little bit about what apps to download.

Mike: OK, what do you want to do, from the apps?

SD: Well, I just downloaded Pandora the other day and I really enjoy it.

Mike: So, you want music and movies, multimedia-stuff like that?

SD: No, not really. I don’t need to watch movies. But I’d love to know what good apps are out there.

Mike: Are you looking for games? Or productivity things? Like scheduling, notes, reminders – things like that?

SD: That might be interesting.

Mike: What about your bank? Do you have your bank’s app?

SD: Oh, that would be good.

Mike: Facebook?

SD: Yeah, that would be good, too. What about that Twitter? How does that work?

I’ll spare you the conversation there. It picked up a little bit later….

SD: I just downloaded a barcode scanner and I love that.

Mike: What do you scan?

SD: There are these square codes in my camping magazines that I scan.

Mike: You actually scan them?

SD: Yeah.

Mike: What does it take you to?

SD: Like this one here (pointing out one regarding a GPS), it takes me to a website where I get to see more information about this GPS unit.

And then, I let him show me the experience. He knew what to do and actually thought he was really cool, doing this high-tech thing on his iPhone.

I was enlightened. From this one encounter, I learned:

1. There is an awareness of QR codes and what they do, to the average consumer. My step-dad was genuinely interested in them and used them.

2. The expectation that the average consumer has about the content behind a QR code is not in line with mine. My step-dad was fine that he was simply directed to a website (non-mobile-optimized at that). He was able to learn more about this GPS system that he wasn’t able to from an ad in the magazine.

3. A mobile-optimized website was of no concern to him. He knows that he can expand any part of the mobile screen with his two fingers so it doesn’t annoy him that there aren’t any special versions of links or simplification of the experience. In fact, he was able to manipulate the screen – expand and scroll – with (relative) speed and precision.

Overall, there is a belief out there that in this little grey computer box and the little phone in your pocket, there is a treasure to be unlocked. The average consumer just doesn’t know how to unlock it. They’re less concerned about instructions and context and optimization. They’re more concerned about having what everyone else has.

To me, that’s a far different problem to solve than perfecting the experience.

Apple’s Influence on Digital/Interactive Out-of-Home

Pirate Apple

Apple has and will continue to singlehandedly shape the future of digital (and interactive) out-of-home.

  • They have redefined mobility.
  • They have created devices that take the intimidation out of touch and gesture. And made them accessible to the average consumer.
  • They have enabled thousands of independent developers to create content for native mobile devices.
  • They have created a personal expectation that we can have what we want when we want it.
  • They have made little bitty boxes that run powerful programs on most any display.
  • They have set the standard in interface design and functionality.
  • And now, they’re introducing the idea of always-accessible voice recognition and memory.


They have fundamentally changed the way that people interact with content and technology, the two core components of digital/interactive out-of-home.

So, if you’re a creative, a technologist, a developer, a strategist, a network operator – whatever you are – and you’re trying to figure out this or that for your digital/interactive screen, look no further than the phone in your pocket or the tablet in your bag or the computer on your desk.


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