I’ll Vacuum My Own Floor, Thank You

I love modern conveniences. Cruise control, gas grills, TV remotes: I’m an unabashed fan. But this whole IOT invasion of smart assistants like Siri and Alexa and Cortana skeeves me out. Even my dog Hank hates it. There’s a house on our daily walk where a Landroid robotic lawn mower rolls endlessly back and forth and he growls at that thing every time we pass.

So last week, when iRobot CEO Colin Angle mused about the value of the data their high end Roomba vacuums collect, it stopped me cold.

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Where The Wild Things Are Today

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps you too share my sinking suspicion that all this AI, all this data and machine learning, will ultimately create little more than the world’s most brilliantly optimized classified ads.

Oh they’ll be effective ads—remarkably so. They will forge an unprecedented level of tactical and transactional effectiveness. They will optimize the context of a wide variety of consumer journeys, they will weight the messaging hierarchy, they will include nearly infinite personalization integrated directly into the consumer experience.

They will do all these amazing, innovative, unheard of things every minute of every hour without ever taking a sick day or leaving for a new opportunity.

But they won’t fire human imaginations with the white hot power of pure delight. Continue reading

You’re Listening. Bose Might Be Too.

BoseDBluetooth enables wireless listening. For more than one, apparently.

An article posted on Fortune.com describes yet another example of corporate intrusion around data collection. A lawsuit filed this week alleges that Bose monitors users’ listening habits via the Bose Connect app, then sells that information to third parties, without permission or knowledge. Charming.

This is just the latest in a string of similar line-crossings, all in the name of the much ballyhooed IoT. Connecting ‘things’ to the internet inevitably creates a byproduct of consumer data, and a lot of companies can’t resist scooping that up for themselves. But this is almost inexcusably idiotic and any decent marketing firm should advise them against doing this in no uncertain terms.

First off, the majority of users would probably allow them to collect the data if they were afforded an opt-in choice, particularly if they got some benefit like increased functionality. We grant incredible access to personal data to services like Facebook and Instagram with hardly a second thought. But more to the point, given the aggressive transparency empowered by the internet, this kind of shadiness will inevitably come out, revealing your brand’s shit-weaselly behavior.

And I’ve never seen a brand pyramid featuring the attribute ‘shit-weaselly.’




No AT&T, This Is NOT Customer Service. Let’s call it what it really is: passive-aggressive badgering.

We don’t need this “friendly reminder.” We certainly didn’t ask for it. And if you check your records, we’ve never missed a payment. So getting this text doesn’t “enhance our user experience,” it doesn’t “start a two-way dialogue,” and it most definitely doesn’t “make us more likely to recommend AT&T to our friends and family.”

Reaching out this way is all about you. And only about you. Unfortunately, it’s not just you that does this type of thing. Data-hungry marketers make this type of automated false concern all too familiar. You can’t take a flight or stay at a hotel or buy anything online anymore without getting your inbox spammed by follow up satisfaction surveys. Why does buying something from you put us on the hook to provide feedback too? Besides, we know you only want good news; the car dealership service center specifically instructs us to “make sure you give us perfect scores so we can keep our rating” (I’m looking at you Lexus and Audi). It’s gone so far that this past weekend, I even inflated a satisfaction survey about Comcast (seriously) because it directly affected the bonus of the hardworking and dedicated service technician.

I get that these help you, but there is a right way to do these things. At the very least, invest in some creativity. Or perhaps even better, invest in some humanity.

Inundata: We Have Infinite, Immediate Information, So Why Don’t I Feel Smarter?

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonYep, “inundata.” I just made that word up; coined it without consulting Merriam or Webster, Funk or Wagnalls, Strunk or White. I didn’t invent it because the world needed a new noun, but because I needed some way to describe the intellectual slippage I feel daily, trying to keep up with the crushing flow of breaking news and fresh research and relevant posts–the whole Force Five intensity of the mobile information superhighway that’s never far from hand.

But the critical distinction is that what we live with today is a blitzkrieg of data, not actual knowledge.

I don’t believe we are smarter, I think we’re more distracted.

I don’t think we multi-task, I think we do more things with less commitment.

And I truly don’t believe any of us are wiser despite today’s omnipresence of information. We have always been able to find or conjure data to support whatever belief we hold. It may not stand up to the rigors of the scientific method, but it doesn’t need to; we’re not scientists. At least, most of us aren’t.

Which is why we should all take time to stop and make art. We should all try things, create things and play. Because in the end, creativity is the human data that defines ourselves.

Oh, and it’s also why every brand needs a really well thought out search strategy.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

I Know The Latest On US Durable-Goods Orders, Consumer Spending, and First Time Jobless Claims Yet Still Know Nothing

Picture 2Funny thing about this massive internet data engine we all plug into: I have access to more information than ever and still don’t really know anything.  At least regarding the US economy; I do know way too much about pop culture, beer and bourbon.

That’s the thing about data—it’s not actual knowledge, only its unrefined ore.  Before you can leverage a fact, you need to convert it into something actionable, something larger: an outcome or a conclusion.

The only reason I’m chasing this tangent on a Wednesday morning is that in rapid fire succession, three different data points popped up in my inbox this morning:

1.  U.S. consumer spending up in October

2.  U.S. durable-goods orders dip in October

3.  First-time U.S. jobless claims decline to 466,000; stock futures get lift from data

I’m not exactly sure how or why I started getting these Marketwatch headlines on my email.  I mean, I know why Land’s End and Amazon and Ebay clog my inbox every single morning with an endless supply of largely indistinguishable offers, but Marketwatch?  Where did that come from?

Still, it’s news, I scan it, and much like the level of intellectual engagement one gets from the Captivate elevator screen, I leave with a bite-sized intellectual nugget to idly chew for the rest of the day.

Data may be king in the new economy, but the true power still resides in knowledge.  Dag, I gotta get me some more of that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

This just in: October new-home sales rise, paced by gains in southern states.  (man, this stuff never stops…)

As The Web Hits A Growth Spurt, Filters Will Become In-Demand Apps

Earlier this week, the networking geniuses at Cisco released a white paper report that predicts global internet traffic will grow four times larger by 2013.  That means IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 40%.  To put that in perspective, that new traffic level equals ten billion DVD’s crossing the internet each month.  Said more colloquially, that is a damned crapload of data and content.  Moreover, nearly two-thirds of that content is predicted to be video.  By 2013, anyone interested in watching all the online video crossing the network in one day would need roughly twenty thousand years.  That’s a lot of keyboard cat...

Sure, We're Wired For That

Sure, We're Wired For That...Probably

And a whole lot of everything else.  Which quickly becomes a problem.  When you have that large an audience generating that much content, useful information gets lost in sheer volume.  We know this from experience.  Think of Twitter.  If you’re like us (@Element79), you compulsively follow everyone who follows you.  The problem with that philosophy is that some of your followers are officially spammers while others tweet so relentlessly they make themselves defacto spammers.  The net result is too much garbage in and a far less useful experience.  Easy access to high volumes of raw, unfettered data frequently leads to ‘analysis paralysis’ where whomever gathers the thinking becomes overwhelmed with the feeling that they are never done, that they never have all the best sources. Unless you turn data into information, it’s simply noise.

That’s why programmers should be obsessed with developing software that discriminates, filters, and discerns.  Too much information doesn’t inspire, it overwhelms.  Even worse, too much poor quality information actively turns people away.  As the volume of collective-thinking continues it’s exponential expansion rate, we will need more tools to strip away the extraneous and the irrelevant.

Growth can be incredibly awkward–and I have the teenage photos to prove that–but a little bit of advance planning can smooth the transition.  What’s needed now are the right brains on tools to intelligently judge worthy information and winnow away the chaff.  What’s needed soon is the grand promises of Web 3.0.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Comportment v2.0: A More Relevant Way To Consider Branding Today

Consider the word “Comportment:” one of those dusty, remainder bin nouns on par with dated terms like “dungarees” and “sarsaparilla.”  On those very rare occasions when people use this term today, it refers to some sort of dated propriety, a finishing school bearing usually cited with a tall helping of irony.

And yet, marketers would serve their clients well to consider how comportment online and offline affects their client brands.  In a world that enables quicksilver consumer reaction to every brand and action, how companies communicate can be as important as what they communicate.

Unintentional Collateral Damage

Unintentional Collateral Damage

This nineteenth century word popped up this morning when my wife groused “I hate Netflix.”  That seemed odd.  We no longer subscribe, though we did for a while (of course, this was before discovering the wonders of $1 DVD rentals through one of the 12,000 amazingly convenient RedBox locations: not coincidentally, a valued agency client).  It turns out, whenever she clicks the main browser window closed on Safari, she finds the same Netflix banner behind it, forcing her to click that window closed as well.  Not a major issue, but since it happens time and again, it frosts her pumpkin.

As I reset her preferences to thwart pop-up windows, I thought about how oblivious Netflix must be to this unintended impression.  And how dangerous that kind of thoughtlessness can be when multiplied over the millions of impressions that happen online.  While advertisers should think of the web as a vast data engine, they should also realize that it is an intimate communications platform.   So behaving like an uninvited guest and refusing to leave won’t build your brand.

Sometimes, cheap media can really cost you.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Things I Learned In The Elevator Today…

Don't Talk, Read...

Don't Talk, Read...

Our office building elevators feature small TV screens run by the Captivate Network: an outfit dedicated to delivering ad messages on, well, small TV screens on office building elevators.  Among useful things like Donny Osmond’s birthday and the Blackhawks standing in the NHL Western Conference, Captivate delivers various news and human interest items rendered into pithy headlines.

This morning, I learned that U.S. Consumer Confidence Hit A Record Low.  Oh boy.  Then later this afternoon, I learned that after the stock market bottomed out in 1932, it rebounded 92% in less than two months.  This was meant to encourage investors to keep vigilant so they don’t miss the bounce of recovery.  I didn’t know these facts before reading them, but neither hit me as particularly remarkable.  They were just facts, data.

I realize ours is the information age.  We average nearly 12,000 Google searches per second, so clearly we have access to unprecedented amounts of information.  But are we truly smarter?  We seem to know a lot about effect, but it takes far more incisive thinking to understand cause.  With this much information spilling over the dam into our personal consciousness’, can we honestly expect to be capable of rendering it all into useful data?  

Agencies must deal with this everyday.  According to Netcraft, as of November 2008, over 185,ooo,ooo websites crowded the world wide web.  Today on WordPress alone, 44 million words were added to the blogosphere.  And it is our job to navigate through this digital thicket in pursuit of insights and actions.

The real value is not all this data, all this chatter, all this raw thinking.  The real value is converting it into actionable information.  The agencies of the future will be the ones that do this not most intelligently, but most pragmatically.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79