Blog: Mike Cearley 

Mike Cearley (bio)
SVP, Digital Strategy

Monday, 29 August 2011

 Ah, making stuff. I love it.

I want to introduce you to Breakfast, NYC. A wonderful little agency in New York who fancies themselves as “toy makers.” And these toys are the kinds of toys that are right down the 11th Screen alley. (These are the same folks who made Nike’s talking/thinking bike, Precious.)

From their website:

It’s  2011.

We’re officially living in the future. Yes, the one you picture in your head when you combine all those images of eye-scanners and Rosie the Robot. But the reason you didn’t sit at the kitchen table this morning and get the weather from your cereal box is simply because the cereal company didn’t even know to ask. Or did they?

We’re BREAKFAST, and we spend our days wondering why a Gap store still works the same way it did 40 years ago. We’re here to help people realize it’s ok to ask for things that sound like science fiction.

Some people call what we do “ the internet of things” or “ web 3.0.” In our opinion those sound a bit silly. We simply think of ourselves as inventors who are trying to take all the amazingness of what can be done online and bring it into some sort of device or  experience in the real world.  Stores can be smarter, an ad can come in the form of a  hologram you can touch and museums can be as fun as playing with  Kinect.

It’s time to stop going on as though flying cars and telekinesis headsetsdon’t exist, and time to make the real world as advanced as the virtual one that’s changed our lives in a single decade. Perhaps you’ll come for a .

Cool, right?

Anyway, the toy that caught my eye last week was Instaprint – a little box that you mount on a wall to print out Instagram pictures. (If you’re not familiar with Instagram, it’s an iPhone application that applies fun filters to your photos in an instant (hence, the name.) The cool thing about this box – aside from the simple fact that it can print out loads of pictures – is that it only prints out pictures that are tagged a certain way, based on the actual location and/or event where it’s placed. And the only way it can print is through communication with your mobile phone. So, essentially, what you have is a hyper-targeted, highly personalized and social take on a photo booth. Operated entirely through mobile. Check it out:

The digital signage industry is wrestling with mobile’s place in the “Out-of-Home” ecosystem. Meanwhile, you have other agencies who have absolutely no affiliation to the industry, made up of really smart and creative people, who understand mobile’s place in our real & virtual world. And how integral and powerful it can be. Regardless of any physical screen.

I don’t know about you, but one of the things that gets me up in the morning is the ability that I have each day to make “stuff.” Now, I don’t make toys like Breakfast. That’s not really the point. The point is that each day we all have the opportunity to shape and mold something in our own way. Our contribution to this wild world.

What are you making today?

Posted by: Mike Cearley AT 07:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 22 August 2011

Part 1

Last week, I read an intriguing article by Garrick Schmitt of Razorfish, titled How Demand for Physical Experiences is Transforming our Physical Spaces. In it, he points out how the entire physical world around us is becoming a screen and that consumers’ expectations have reached a point to where that physical world should be turned on in some form or fashion. This is a viewpoint that I have mostly gotten behind many times on this blog. I say mostly because of those consumer expectations. I’m not sure that, even now, in August 2011, consumers expect the physical spaces around them to be turned on, and even more, transformed into interactive experiences. I don’t know that average consumer capacity is ready for that. What do you think?

Part 2

Guess when that article was written? 2 years ago, in September 2009. Awesome. In my opinion, Schmitt has always been on the forefront of these technology-led experiences in the real world around us. This is case-in-point.

I remember back during that time, it was around the time that I was leading the software development at imc2, for our interactive Out-of-Home solution. I always admired how Schmitt recognized the potential – and future demand – for these types of experiences.

Time is a funny thing, especially in regards to technology adoption. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about here. Consumer demand is directly tied to their comfort level with any particular technology. We’re just now seeing smartphone use creep their way up to the majority. Smartphones have been around for years. But just now, after all these years, the average consumer is not intimidated by them. They know how to work them and, even more, know how they can make their lives better. It also helps that everyone can now afford them.  Kinect is another great example. I wonder how comfortable people would have been with the idea of gesture control, at such an immersive level, two years ago?

Part 3

In the article, Schmitt points to “Out-of-Home” examples that are driven by enabling technologies (mobile and RFID) and people themselves (social media).

I think it’s easy to think about touchscreen-this-and-that when you think about the world around us being turned on. But, as shown in the Schmitt article, and in some of the more recent  engaging examples, actual public touchscreens are not part of these experiences. The place or the thing is the canvas and the interactivity is controlled outside of it, either through mobile phones or computers.

The effective thing with all of these examples – and the thing that I think we can all learn from – is that consumers want it all, in the most convenient way. What I mean is, consumers want information and connections and whatever else they deem valuable. And they’re always going to be driven by what they’re comfortable with because it’s usually the easiest. They’re used to being on computers, connecting with other people through their social networks. They’re used to navigating to whatever they want on their mobile phones. Are they used to walking up to a touchscreen and interacting with it?

Part 4

Also last week (the same day I read the Schmitt article), I saw that Cinemax deployed an immersive touchscreen experience in the heart of New York City.

Cinemax Strike Back - Superwall Interactive Installation - NYC

As you can see, the experience spans the front of an entire NYC building. It’s obviously noticeable. Consumers are enticed by it. And, by the looks of this video, comfortable enough to go up and play with it.

Having lived and worked in NYC, to get anyone to stop and interact with a storefront, is a feat in and of itself.

Yes, people can also interact with this experience through their mobile phone. But this is largely a public-facing, touchscreen experience. And it doesn’t seem like anyone in the video is a) intimidated or b) unaware of how to use it.

Is this indicative of Anytown, USA?

Part 5

QR codes. What can be simpler? In the past year, they’ve gone from nothing to everything, at least in terms of visibility. My wife knows that “those are the things you can scan with your smartphone.”

They’re a great bridge between the real world with the virtual world and quite effective of turning those places/things around us “on.”

They’re everywhere now.

But the question is, despite their simplicity, why am I the only one who I ever see scan them?

Part 6

Simplicity and comfort are not the only two linchpins to this demand that we all know is coming. You can bring up the Minority Report analogies all you want, but this is not a far-fetched representation of our future world. Glorified, perhaps. But not unrealistic.

Two years ago, all of these interactive Out-of-Home activations were novel enough to garner attention. Are we still in that novel stage?

Part 7

Value. That’s really the question, right?

In this constantly-on physical world, what’s going to be noise and what’s going to be valuable?

By virtue, demand always creates noise.

Are consumers ready for all that noise?

 Related Posts:

Posted by: Mike Cearley AT 08:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Coke's 106 Flavors Soda Fountain

With any new technology, there’s nothing better than feedback from the average user. If you’re ever ideating, creating, developing, and/or activating any sort of interactive experience, test with real people, early and often. They’ll give you a better sense of what works, what doesn’t, tendencies, assumptions, etc. than anyone on your team can.

I’ve written about Coke’s 106 Flavors interactive touch screen soda fountain a couple of times here. I’ve observed “average users” using it, but I haven’t ever heard direct feedback from anyone about it.

The other day, I was out to lunch with someone who I would consider to be an average user and they interacted with this soda fountain. Here’s how it went:

He presses the ice button. Fills the ice.

“…..these newfangled contraptions.”

Presses the Coke button, gets 6 different flavors of Coke.

“OK, I guess this is what I do.”

Fills his cup full of Coke.

“There you go. Even I – with limited intellect – can operate this.”

And that was it. So, he operated it without futzing through the experience. He and I were chatting in line, so the operational component of this machine – the waiting for 1 person to fill their soda before we can move closer – was not an issue.

I still think there’s a disproportionate tradeoff between the number of soda choices you get (106) and the number of people who can get ice & soda at a time (1), but based on my testing group of 1, moving through a new experience like this via touch screen technology, it passed with flying colors.

Posted by: Mike Cearley AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 03 August 2011

Domino's Times Square Billboard

What Domino’s is currently doing – by broadcasting (virtually) unfiltered comments on one of the biggest stages in the world (Times Square) – is something I applaud and would actually recommend to any client more times than not. Here’s why:

1) It’s simple. There is absolutely no time/effort spent on content creation. Yes, they have to filter comments, but if there is human involvement, it’s not much.

2) It’s coming from the right place. Simply put, if a brand is coming at the experience and/or engagement – regardless of channel – from the right place, they’ll get credit. Regardless of any specific negative comments that might come their way, Domino’s has made a pledge – as a brand – to listen to their customers to get better. What can be a better place to come at it from? The community recognizes this and Domino’s will get credit, sales and ultimately loyalty by being open. Remember, people want a say. Domino’s is going full tilt and giving it to them. Then, using it to make their product better.

3) It’s big and out in the open. There’s no hiding from anything on any of those screens in Times Square. Not only is Domino’s being transparent by broadcasting these comments, they are putting those comments front and center for everyone to see. This is just another example of them showing how committed they are, as a brand, to improving. And in the process, kind of innovating.

In the digital signage industry, the concept of utilizing social media as content has seemed either a) intimidating and/or b) incompatible, to the point of not using it altogether.

For whatever reason, LocaModa seems to be one of the only companies who has whole-heartedly embraced it, enough to build a thriving business around it.

I wrote a post the other day about fundamental human behaviors that are critical inputs to us as we create engagements using social media channels. I believe those behaviors apply to any marketing or communications across any channel. Including Out-of-Home (OOH) and digital signage. Often times, I feel like the industry doesn’t know what to do and/or how to sell these screens that broadcast in public places. In the end, it probably always comes down to a question of content. While we see (and will continue to see) many examples of creative content being produced by brands and broadcast across various channels, it’s important to recognize that consumers, themselves, are creating buckets of content about the brands they love everyday.

So, from a strategic POV, why not tap into this? Brands will always open themselves up for negative comments on any social channel – be it online or off. More channels and more screens don’t alleviate that possibility. Those channels only give those voices more of a chance to be amplified. But this is not something to shy away from. Unless the brand is completely averse to change.

Almost always, the community wins. And not a single individual within the community, but the community as a whole. The brand is an enabler and a participant. That’s pretty much it.

Next time you’re sitting around trying to think of the golden piece of content, it might be right under your nose. In the social channels. Don’t be afraid.

Posted by: Mike Cearley AT 04:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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