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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Why even simple behavioural targeting can work

Seth Godin posted a typically insightul blog on targeting with respect to Firefox users. His point is that they represent a quarter of his site’s visitors, but half of its contributors and so these “power users” should be treated as priority.

This makes sense. Not everyone is the BBC, whose iPlayer underwent a lengthy gestation where it was windows internet explorer-only due to the BBC’s duty to be mass (though they didn’t rush to be inclusive).

Behavioural targeting can and should be utilised – particularly in the initial stages of a project. It could be rewarding heavy customers/users with priority/first access to a new service, using connectors to spread ideas, or – to use Tom’s example – recruiting a panel of superrespondents.

Effective targeting provides shortcuts. And shortcuts aren’t necessarily sub-optimal. In competitive markets, time and money are precious resources.

Information gathering doesn’t need to be at phorm levels. In Seth’s example, just knowing what browser a visitor is using is enough. Starting small in one community, gaining momentum and then spreading to the mass works.


Computer & Video Games is the latest zombie brand to reawaken

It has been announced that the Computer & Video Games brand is going to be relaunched, four years after it was closed down. Yet another case of a Zombie brand. But where Atari failed and where I expect Commodore to fail, I can see this revival working.

  • The brand has the USP of being the original video games magazine
  • While the magazine was put to rest, the website continued successfully
  • Limiting itself to specials can keep the nostalgia running for a longer period
  • Future Publishing seem to know what they are doing
  • And let’s face it, serious video gamers can be a geeky bunch and this is the sort of thing they will appreciate

However, I do retain one note of caution. I’m surprised that the publishers have chosen to go with the more modern/mainstream Grand Theft Auto with the launch issue. This obviously has the benefit of tying in with the forthcoming GTA IV, but the core audience will not necessarily be aware of the history of the publication. Personally, I would have gone with a Sim City or Doom – a title which reaches back to CVG’s heyday. The market may be smaller, but it would be more fanatical and there would be more appreciation for a high-quality retrospective. By going down this route, it appears that the nostalgic appeal of the print brand is secondary to the ongoing website cross-promotion. I’m sure Future have done their research, and they must have concluded that this was the more profitable direction.

Obviously, success or failure will not result purely from the masthead – there needs to be a decent magazine behind it. But Vanity Fair has shown that magazines with a strong heritage can be successful revived, and I don’t see why Computer & Video Games can’t follow a similar path.


The power of crowds

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebflyte/

I didn’t buy a Glastonbury ticket earlier. I pre-registered, I have available funds and I would have been happy to go.

The reason I didn’t was not the history of poor weather (although it did make last year miserable in places). It was not the quality of acts thus far announced (I only saw two acts on the main stage across the 4 days last year). In fact, Glastonbury itself had nothing to do with my decision.

I’m not going because few of my friends are. Community is a large part of the festival experience. And like online communities; for all the features and draws of the infrastructure there may be, attendance/usage ultimately comes down to the strength of the community. Conversations. Connections. Shared experiences.

And so like the great Myspace to Facebook migration of 2006, 2008 suggests a similar move away from Glastonbury to Latitude.

The complication (for me, at least) is that Latitude is the same weekend as Truck Festival, an event I usually attend. In that respect, festivals differ from online communities. Open Social is making inroads into data portability, but festival attendance is still very much a zero-sum game.



Bitstrips is awesome. Very straightforward to use and incredibly customisable. Perfect for people like myself with no artistic ability to create a passable strip. And while it is still in beta, there are already some nice features set up within it. With the art sorted, I just need to work on improving the text.

'The Big Still'

The reason this looks a bit wrong is that I’ve had to adjust the dimensions to fit in the layout

Incidentally, I am referring to this story. The latest in a spate of accusations of visual plagiarism. Can artists assert their intellectual rights? With the difficulties in proving the originality of ideas or concepts, it looks like a row that will long continue. Plenty of time for me to hone my comic strip skills then.


Links – 4th April 2008

A quiet week:



Exploiting the medium to maximize engagement

After raving about The 21 Steps – the first episode (is that the right word?) of the We Tell Stories adventure, I have to say I was disappointed with Week 2’s offering – Slice. It was just too lightweight. The twin narrative wasn’t utilised effectively and the the Twitter feeds were essentially the same text as the blogs formatted differently. Following in real-time admittedly offered some excitement, but this was short-lived. 1 for 2 then, but I will continue to support the endeavour. Week 3 is released today.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I applaud Penguin and Six to Start for identifying the unique features of the medium, utilising its strengths and pushing the constraints. I wish more would do this. Or, if this is a common venture, I wish more people that do this were brought to my attention.

Two of my favourite books of all time are Watchmen by Alan Moore, and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. Not only are both superb stories (one revolutionary, the other heartbreaking) but they are also superbly told. Whether nuanced allusions, repeat motifs, parallel stories (sometimes in alternating panels), duplicated images, adjuncts outside of the strip format or dual narrative within the same pane, both writers (and artist) successfully explored the limits of their medium. In my opinion, this elevates two great stories to classics. Others agree.

I would like to see this creativity applied to television advertising. The best adverts circulated virally or collected online tend to be outdoor adverts making unique use of their environment. So what is the television environment? What are its strengths?

The strength most commonly identified with television is its centrality in many people’s lives. It offers national events and watercooler moments. Vast numbers tune in. And vast numbers talk about adverts. Traditionally, television adverts communicated rational benefits. So PG Tips spoke purely about the taste and how to maximise it. Then advertisers learned to tap into people’s emotions, and so the message changed from the product to the image.

And now we have reached a point where adverts don’t necessarily have anything to do with the products they are advertising.

Cadbury Gorilla

So the focus has moved from the message/catchphrase to the image, but not yet the medium. There have been some experiments – notably Match.com with their live advert, but none have caught the imagination. Yet.

My proposal may well be unoriginal, but I am unaware of any brand using it. The format has already proved itself successful in a different guise – board games.

In the right setting, it would work brilliantly. Thinkbox have plenty of research (this is but one example) that show the level of engagement and conversation that result from good advertising. The communal element of television is something that has yet to be fully capitalised upon. Interactivity will take this to the next level. It isn’t even very expensive – while I didn’t believe it when I was 8, Atmosfear is pre-recorded. By creating challenges and inviting the audience to participate, attention is gained. If there is a successful pay-off, it will generate those conversations the following day (or immediately online) and create that word-of-mouth supplement that helps make campaigns.

If an advertiser created enough different versions that went out during watercooler-moment, shared viewing television (whether FA Cup, Britain’s Got Talent or Big Brother) – and perhaps even publicised the times, it would create a sense of buzz and anticipation that is yet to accompany any advertising other than Superbowl spots (while the media world may look forward to the next Sony Bravia advert, I don’t think the general public are particularly bothered). And while I’m not an expert in cognitive psychology or behavioural science, I reckon the people that actively take part in an advert will be more likely to remember it than those that view passively.

I look forward to seeing the format being exploited in new ways. Whether it is an incorporated disruption to the messages in tiny font that whizz across insurance adverts or something more high concept, the opportunity is there.

Excellent creative execution is not inextricably linked to the message. The format – of which the message and the visual are but two constituents – is a rich body of characteristics that is still to be fully explored or exploited.

Are there any adverts in the UK or abroad that currently do this? If so, I’d love to hear about them.