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After three days of walking, walking and, oh yeah, walking, it was time to head home. CES 2013 was over, and once again the tech conference did not disappoint.

On our way to the airport I was discussing what I had seen with some colleagues. As usual, there were a whole lot of gadgets and technologies that got us excited, but what really stuck with us were the things that the people around us got excited about. We decided that the only fair way to make a “Best of CES 2013″ list would be to mention the things that we had overheard other people talking about.

So here it is, the list of things we heard other people talking about at CES 2013.

1) “Did you see the NHK 8K TV?” “Yeah, that’s a lot of K’s!”20130113-232654.jpg

2) “Samsung has a 21x optical zoom camera phone! I want it!” (Okay, this one was announced earlier in the year, but it’s still super cool.)

3) “Is that a bendable TV? That’s cool!” Yes. It was a flexible OLED display from Sharp.

4) “You have to try Icepan ice cream at Harrah’s. They flash freeze it right in front of you.” “Try it? I’ve had it six times this week!” Technically this was just in Las Vegas, not at CES but yes, apparently the guy next to me had this amazing milk-and-fruit ice cream six times. I only had it three times, but that’s because I was only at CES for three days. If you can get to Harrah’s I highly recommend it.

See you at CES 2014. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of delicious, 8K, optical zooming, flexible displays. The true future of convergence.

Voice activation. Synchronized devices. Touch interface on every screen. Internet connectivity on the go. Automated telematics. Speech to text. Text to speech. These are some of the features that come up in discussions about the future of the connected living room, but if you step outside you can already find these technologies working side-by-side in the largest mobile device you own: your car.

For all the hype about how we can connect at home, it’s easy to overlook the connectivity that already exists for cars. Systems like GM’s OnStar have been making automated emergency calls for years. These telematics systems have now evolved beyond emergency services to help automate phone calls, provide social media access and stream internet radio. Kia’s UVO with eServices is one such infotainment system that boasts the elimination of monthly fees by utilizing the driver (or passenger’s) mobile device for voice and data connectivity. The victory is in the system’s ability to integrate with devices for this purpose.

Kia UVO display at CES 2013

Speech-to-text is another feature of connected living rooms that has generated a lot of buzz and speculation. Ford’s Sync and similar vehicular technologies already provide all of the basic vocal automations that would be needed for a hands-free home media experience. Cars are the perfect venue to develop this technology because unlike watching Netflix at home, lives are on the line out on the road.

“We place a focus on safety first,” said Chrysler’s Scott Brown at the uConnect booth, “but that doesn’t mean that you should have to leave the connected experience behind when you leave the house.” Drivers may not be watching movies on their in-dash screens, but the car has long been the domain of audio content, and streaming music services are starting to muscle their way in to compete with radio. This year at CES, uConnect announced special mobile versions of apps for Pandora, iHeartRadio and other Internet radio services designed to “deliver the same information but modified to work safely in the car,” said Sue Frederick, also from Chrysler, “the app has to not get in the way.”

Kenwood is bringing similar offerings to the automotive aftermarket with their “Live Connected. Drive Connected.” line of products. Features include social media connectivity, speech-to-text and vehicular information feedback.

Kenwood at CES 2013. Live connected. Drive connected.

All of these technologies mean that you can finally pull out of your garage and say something like, “Open Pandora and play my Road Trip station, then take me to The Buddy Group in Irvine, CA and set me an appointment to talk about a long-term digital marketing strategy for the release of my new product. Now tweet: Can’t wait to see my Buddies. #buddyup.”

Drivers have very specific, safety-driven needs when it comes to device interactivity. Over the next few years, people who buy new and recently-used cars will be introduced to technologies that address these needs, which may help fuel desire for similar integration with home entertainment systems. Until then, you’ll just have to enjoy the future of your living room from the comfort of your car.

 

 

Connected devices are more mobile than ever. Laptops are turning into tablets. Smart phones have become handheld Internet access points. Wireless speeds are continually improving. Improved battery technology means devices can work for longer periods of time without needing a wall tether. The pieces are all in place to achieve the fabled “connected living room”, but connecting our devices with our living rooms still isn’t a seamless experience. What’s missing? As it turns out, there are three things to accomplish before we can truly live a connected life.

1) A True Universal Standard

The biggest roadblock to the connected living room is the ability to have any two devices communicate with each other with a minimum of human intervention. The connected home won’t be a “must have” until a person can walk into a friend’s house and share a video on the living room TV or play music through the house sound system without needing a special set of instructions.

Belkin showed off an extensive array of connected-home technologies. Andrew Hoang, Product Marketing Manager for Belkin said that their solution for streaming media from devices to Smart TVs is based on DLNA standards, which is important for “doing what I want, where I want, when I want,” and went on to point out that they’ve taken strides to “make complicated processes easy by using html5,” for their router setup pages so that they display effectively on any device, not just PCs. This is a step in the right direction.

2) A Reason to Change

If there isn’t inherent value to the consumer they will be reluctant to adopt a new technology. You and I may already have a fully connected living room, but what about all of our non-tech friends and relatives? Do they really need a Smart TV and the ability to interact with content? Maybe not. Qualcomm is taking steps to change this attitude by exploring new applications of connected technology.

In collaboration with Sesame Workshop, Qualcomm presented “Abby’s Fairy Rock”, a proof-of-concept demo that enables true interaction between tablets and Smart TVs. In order to get this technology to work, “You need powerful processors that enable the technology, and you also need to design content that works between connected devices,” said Brian Vogelsang, Director, Product Management Snapdragon Ecosystem for Qualcomm. If “Abby’s Fairy Rock” is any indication of what’s coming then consumers might soon be presented with a much stronger reason to want to connect all their devices.

Possibly the most important element still missing from the connected ecosystem is

3) A Call to Arms

This is the intangible “cool factor” that always precedes any major technology shift. Napster made it easy and attractive for consumers to share music online, which helped create the online music culture. Apple’s iPod and iPhone were the much-hyped mp3 players that many people who had previously ignored digital music players just suddenly “had to have,” and led the shift to widespread digital music consumption. In order to get our non-tech friends to embrace the connected living room, there needs to be a mass-market “cool” product that wins them over.

In Smart TV, Sony is offering TV SideView as a system that “lets you control BRAVIA from your VAIO”. Newer services like this will both compete and interact with veteran offerings from Apple, Google and WD, all of which are popular devices, but none of which have hit any kind of critical mass just yet.

One last thought. Belkin built a five-room layout at CES to display their WeMo technology as the core system of a connected household. With WeMo, an assortment of wall plug adapters enable remote access to almost any appliance for remote operation, on/off control and even video monitoring. For me, the system evokes memories of the computer setup in Electric Dreams, the 1984 rom-com about a digital-age love triangle between a girl, a boy and his computer. Anyone else remember that one? Just me?

What do you think? Are we finally ready for connected living? Leave a comment and let us know what missing links you think I might have missed.

As we approach the end of 2012 and prepare to enter the teen years of the 21st century there’s a little milestone worth noting – YouTube’s first billion-view video. A billion views! That's a lot!

Psy’s Gangnam Style, which was tied with Call Me Maybe for the I-just-can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head award of 2012, crossed the billion-view mark earlier today. Certainly, the total number of views a video gets isn’t the only (or even the most important) metric used to determine the success of a video, but in a (pop)culture that places a large emphasis on famous firsts, this is a major milestone.

Not so long ago, there was a bit of a battle between Evolution of Dance and Girlfriend to be the first video to reach the 100-million mark. If I’m not mistaken, Girlfriend hit the mark first, but Evolution of Dance has regained the lead since then, and both videos now sit around 200 million views. That we’ve jumped from 100-million view videos to a billion-view video in just a couple of years confirms the obvious – web video viewership continues to grow at an extremely rapid (if not exponential) pace.

Our own Bryan Boettger wrote an article earlier this year about why million-view videos aren’t necessarily a must-have for every brand. His salient point was that under the right circumstances, a video with a low view count that achieves a specific informational goal for a small set of customers might be even more successful for a brand than a hugely viral video. To that point, Gangnam Style’s billion views has probably sold a ton of digital downloads, and whoever owns that song will be counting their money well into 2013, but that same number of views could actually be disastrous for a small mom-and-pop business.

Dandelion Chocolate, a San Francisco-based chocolate factory, produces a wonderful handmade product, but struggles just to fill the orders that already pour in on a regular basis. If they had a promotional video that went viral, the ensuing traffic could cripple their website and phone lines. A good problem to have, maybe, but a challenging problem for a small business to say the least.

When planning a social or video campaign, it’s just as important to consider the size of your existing audience as the size of the audience you’re thinking about trying to connect with. Sometimes bigger isn’t better. Although it is fun to watch the milestones go by.

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and watch out, Videos of 2013 – we’re ready to share you!

By Mike Kirsch, Director of Video Production

“A good story and the quality of the content is what drives engagement. No matter how big the producer or provider behind the content, if the story does not connect… it is hard to break through to a larger audience.” – Jeremiah McMillan, “Building a Story That Translates Across Platforms

You might remember an article I wrote a while back about the importance of story over video length. I’ve always been a huge proponent of telling a good story rather than building a weak story around a seemingly cool idea. Just because you have access to a house with a pool, for instance, doesn’t mean you should make a video that takes place poolside. Figure out your main message and then develop the creative that fits it. If the logistics of planning your shoot outpace the available budget, then it’s time to rethink your creative. But this is always a better approach than trying to shoehorn a concept into a video just because “it seems cool”. (more…)

On the internet, a one minute video is never exactly one minute. While traditional broadcast or web pre-roll video placements might occasionally force your hand into creating for a 5, 10, 15 or 30-second window, the vast majority of internet distribution channels allow for complete freedom from the constrictions of time. The anecdotal argument that online audiences will only tolerate short videos has now been proven false. Mediapost recently reported an Invodo study that found “37% of consumers spent more than three minutes watching product videos that are educational or demonstrate how to use a product.”

Whenever a client asks for a “one minute video” that’s intended for web distribution, I work with them to create a video with the appropriate informational content and it generally ends up running between 40 seconds and 1:30 in length. The takeaway here is “appropriate informational content”. Building the right message for an audience is a lot easier when you’re not watching the clock and it’s more effective to deliver a great video than one that just fits into an arbitrary time limit.

For content producers and brand managers alike, it’s important to always remember a little wisdom from Film School 101; story is king. The differentiator for good content will never be length, distribution outlet or even (in many cases) video quality. It’s not unheard of for a homemade video to amass millions of views. The key to success with an audience is to tell an engaging story that keeps their interest while it delivers your information. The rest is just adspeak.

 

Engage

15 July 2011

Capture the Flag

Is there a Spy in your meeting? Did the General just get back from lunch? Are you sitting next to a Bomb? This week at The Buddy Group, any of these scenarios are possible.

Rule #1: Play to Win

The Buddy Group has a history of playful competitiveness. In 2006 it was Bonus Ball, a dodgeball mutation played in the back alleys of an Irvine, CA corporate park. 2007 brought us the round-robin basketball brouhaha known as Knockout. 2008 saw the rise of a 2-year stint of Foosball, and towards the end of 2010 we got crazy about Ping Pong. But nobody expected the Capture the Flag craze of 2011.

When we’re not delivering digital creative for our international roster of clients (we do get work done from time to time – you’ll just have to trust me on that) we like to blow off steam by having a little fun. For our real-life version of Capture the Flag the company was split into two teams, red and blue. Each team member was then randomly assigned a rank and set free to “attack” members of the other team. Higher ranks beat lower ranks, Spies beat Generals, and Bombs beat anyone except a Mine Sweeper.

Still with me? Ready for more? (more…)

The results are in, and I’m proud to announce that The Buddy Group has won eight 2010 Telly awards! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Telly Awards, they honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web.

Here’s how it works – The elusive Sliver Telly is the highest possible award, and isn’t given out very often. The second place award is the Bronze Telly.

Seven of our awards were awarded in the traditional process, where producers who have won Silver Tellys in the past are sent copies of the work and judge each individual video based on the category in which it was entered. The eighth award was for the VelociRaptor Product Trailer that we made for Western Digital and comes from an exciting new category – the People’s Telly, which was voted on by the general public via the Telly Awards YouTube channel.

Here’s the full breakdown of our eight 2010 Tellys:

WD My Passport Studio Trailer – Computers/Information Technology Category – SILVER

WD My Passport Studio Trailer – Use of Animation – SILVER

WD Velociraptor Product Trailer – Computers/Information Technology Category – BRONZE

WD Velociraptor Product Trailer – People’s Telly, Use of Animation – BRONZE

WD SmartWare Overview – Sales Category – BRONZE

WD SmartWare Overview – Visual Effects Category – BRONZE

Hot Wheels Custom Motors Interactive Video Experience on YouTube – Entertainment Category – BRONZE

DTS UltraPC Video – Miscellaneous Category – BRONZE

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