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Mar 2011

Will social media eventually replace traditional communication completely?

Posted in Social Media | 2 Comments »

I’ll be honest, had it been April 1st, I might have dismissed this news as a joke, but it’s mid-March and it’s not only a very smart approach to communication, but a forward-thinking one, too. This year, for the first time in UK history, a solicitor has issued a court summons via Facebook.

No, seriously.

Debtors, as you can well imagine, are probably slightly reluctant to delve into the legal morass of court visits and other inconveniences that come with owing people a significant amount of money. However, this also means you’re not likely to find them responding to any letters or phone-calls. However, upon proving to Hastings County Court in Essex that the slippery individual was a bit of a Facebook user, solicitor Hilary Thorpe was allowed to jump on the site and put the fear of Zuckerberg in them.

Away went the summons, and assumably they’ve either now responded or are considering finding another, similar social network with their mates on (yeah, good luck with that one). It was a tactic that was used once before in a similar cause Down Under, and that particular Australian couple found their legally binding documents served to them via the social networking site.

If anything, it proves that there really are no limits to the uses of Facebook and Twitter. Yesterday, author Adam Christopher found that using Twitter to befriend publisher Angry Robot resulted in them offering him his dream career, after many years of effort. Social media is no longer a distraction from your career, but a tool you can use to take it even further. Not to mention that if your legal career is being impeded by someone’s unresponsive nature, you can start tracking them down via their status updates.

It’ll be interesting to see what other landmarks social media sees in 2011, though don’t be surprised if people start conducting lectures or broadcasting them through Twitter. I recently saw the novel idea of tweeting a live surgery, demonstrated by the cast of Grey’s Anatomy. Other doctor’s joined in, offered suggestions and even a loan of their medical equipment during an operation that wasn’t going well. There are so many possibilities that it encourages those who’ve not joined in to join in, or so I’d like to think.

Even if you’re not going to use Twitter to talk, it might not be a bad idea to just use it to listen, considering it’s none too interested in your real name. Think of it as an RSS Reader that’s evolved into something else entirely. Social media is rapidly becoming the preferred method of communication, conducting business and even bringing lawbreakers to justice. The first two uses are pretty great. The third one is just downright cool. Now all Judge Dredd needs is a login and he’s good to go.

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Nov 2010

How far can advertising be taken?

Posted in Advertising | 0 Comments

Today, pinging around the web, I came across a rather interesting little beta. AdKeeper is a little tool that places a small button on every banner ad in your browser. Using the tool allows you to scrapbook banner ads to look at later.

This is an odd concept, and not just because most banner ads you see are either for terrible action-adventure films with budgets bigger than the brains behind the cameras, or the predictably testosterone-fuelled ads for MMORPGs full of scantily-clad women. But there are a genuine few that are fantastic, like the ones that offer little minigames, or ones that have smart advertising copy you might want to take as inspiration for some work you’re doing on a similar project.

I like the idea of keeping my favourite adverts. A long time ago, there was an advert for the Volkswagen Golf that blew my mind. It was a remix, visually and musically, of Gene Kelly’s signature scene from Singing in the Rain, with a street/breakdancing twist. It was one of the most creative uses of music in advertising I’ve ever seen and the remixed song went on to do fairly well, too. But I couldn’t scrapbook it, and of course finding an upload of that ad before the true rise of YouTube was a bit of a nightmare.

But scrapbooking banner ads raises an interesting question: are we really choosing examples of design that we enjoy, or are we, as happy little consumers, enjoying the brief flutter of excitement we get from seeing our favourite advert? Think about how many people would see year-old adverts if they saved the banner! It’s an endless supply of advertising well after the company sells the ad space, and it’s being done by willing consumers who don’t even notice. Genius, when you think about it, as you get to save your favourite ad and the company gets to show you it every time you go to take another peek at the thing.

The other odd thing I saw this morning was the fact that the Chilean miners were each given a pair of sunglasses on their exit. This I knew already, having avidly followed the event myself. But what I didn’t know was that they were Oakley sunglasses. So, for the cost of 35 pairs (at a value of $6300) of glasses and a little shipping charge, they got $41 million’s worth of exposure. Outrageous, say some, but truly, you’ve got to admire it. It was possibly the most subtle use of advertising anyone’s ever seen, and they got away with it save for those who wrote about it on smaller blogs.

I’d love to see that happen in other places, because if you work in Oakley’s marketing department and you weren’t high-fiving each other by that point, you should have done. Of course, American Idol has barely-censored Coca-Cola glasses, almost every American television drama contains a Blackberry (Grey’s Anatomy), a Macbook (Dexter) or Smirnoff Vodka (Mad Men) and we’re forgetting the epic amounts of brand names every time we walk or film outdoors. But to do it on national news sets a new, ever-so-slightly chilling precedent, that these miners probably knew nothing about the brand of the glasses, but just put them on to preserve their sight.

It’s manipulative, of course it is, but at the same time I doubt they were complaining when they were given a shedload of other gifts, though in reality their true reward was to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors and know that they could spend time with their families again – and, I’d imagine, quit their job at the mine. Not all of them will ever fully recover, but the world took care of them and it was an amazing coup by Chile as it was possibly the best possible advert for their goverment’s nice side.

Whether you’re clipping Hyundai banners or checking out Oakley sunglasses after watching the news, advertising’s control on you simply depends on how you respond to it. If you accept the product and move on, you’re in control, even if you keep the ad because it was cool. You live in a world of unprecedented choice, and all you’ve got to do is shop around for the stuff you like. Advertising is now offering us little products live on Sky News, CNN and the BBC. Now if they can work a Macbook into the recent Wikileaks success story, Steve Jobs will have officially won the internet.

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