The Second Smartphone Revolution

Fred Wilson writing about mobile and the developing world:

But the next 2.5bn people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all – from the web or from the offline world. I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister.

The developed world created the smartphone, then we used it to solve all kinds of first world problems.

Now that the developing world has access, they’ll be using it to solve more fundamental problems. And without the burden of legacy anything – infrastructure, economy, business models, ways of working – it’s not far fetched to think that the next major disruptions to how we go about life will be cooked up in places that couldn’t be any further removed from Silicone Valley.

The Ad Industry Has Survived Another Super Bowl

Another Super Bowl has come and gone. Which for me has meant another year of having done my taxes during the game. It makes an excellent yearly appointment to get them out of the way. You have all of your materials. There’s still plenty of time to bring in a professional if things get complicated. And you get to brag about how smart you are to people who think you’re nuts.

As usual, I caught the second half of the game, and I’ll go back and watch the ads that I missed later this morning.

It’s difficult to miss the reactions to the ads. Every year is always the year of “the worst ads ever.” Or, sometimes “the ads are good again!”

I do think that they are plagued by expectations of what a Super Bowl ad could be from back before we had YouTube.

Super Bowl ads used to be the soul source of strange and over-the-top video making. They come from a time when kids would pass around Faces of Death videos, and eventually Jackass found an audience. Now we’re used to seeing strange and unusual videos. And most of them come without some kind of marketing message getting in the way.

Being on the industry side of things, it’s hard not to be cynical about Super Bowl ads. You can see where the edges of ideas were sanded down by clients and you can feel some of the work trying too hard to be amazing. It’s easy to make a case for most of the advertisers that the Super Bowl is bad use of their budget.

However, the reality is that it is a minor miracle that anything even halfway good ever sees the light of day. That’s the part of the picture that the typical armchair critic doesn’t understand.

I once watched from a distance as creatives burned through over 300-scripts for a Super Bowl spot, finally selling an idea, going on production over Christmas, only to have the client sell the ad time a couple of weeks before the game.

The sheer number of hours that people pour into these spots, along with their blood, sweat and tears, is enormous. As is the number of hurdles that any idea has to clear on the way. Selling an idea through an organization the size of GM, for example, means getting in front of hundreds of eyeballs, most of which are attached to brains that don’t understand how advertising works. Each pair of eyeballs then feels compelled to offer an opinion on how to make it better.

…And so it goes for months. Making its way from an initial concept, to storyboards, to hiring a director, to treatments, to production, and on through editing … any ad that is going to run in the Super Bowl will be run through the approval spanking machine multiple times. And at any point, there is the danger of some junior person in finance making an offhanded comment that ends up ruining the idea. It’s like walking a balloon through a thicket of well-intentioned, but very thorny vines.

So congratulations to the teams that made work that they are proud of. There aren’t many of them. And they all deserve a good nap.

Why aren’t Brick & Morter Space and Cyberspace the Same Space?

Ever since first browsing the aisles at Barnes and Noble to sample books that I was ordering from Amazon on my iPhone, I’ve wondered why retail hasn’t yet evolved from having an online presence that is separate from brick and mortar to having them sync’d together into one experience. It’s been a completely separate push from the constant work that’s done to optimize their brick and mortar locations. 

We all know that the Apple Store has done some remarkable things at retail, one of them being the ability to buy an item using your phone, pick it up and walk out the door without ever speaking to an employee. Which is great if you have the chutzpah required to actually do it … my guilty conscience would do unspeakable things to me if I ever tried.

Beyond Apple, however, it seems like retail has remained fairly stagnant and completely isolated from the Internet. Which is why I was interested to see that Neiman Marcus (of all places) is dipping it’s toes into the brick & mortar & digital waters with a mobile app that’s made to connect customers to sales associates, 24/7: 

Though online shopping has undergone multiple transformations over the past two decades, the same can not be said for brick-and-mortar retail. Shoppers are still brought in using approximately the same marketing tactics (think direct mail catalogs, window displays, seasonal sales). Product is still refreshed at the same rates and customers still line up and check out, with few exceptions, at cash registers.

Signature, a mobile app company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping assistant,” is looking to reengineer the way consumers shop in stores — namely, the stores of upscale clothing retailers. The San Francisco-based startup has partnered with Neiman Marcus to develop a custom iPhone app to better facilitate communications between stores and customers.

The app, called NM Service, is currently being piloted at four Neiman Marcus locations: San Francisco, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Neiman Marcus’s flagship store in Dallas, Texas.

It has two interfaces: one for shoppers and one for sales associates. Shoppers are able to able to browse event schedules, new arrivals and promotions. As they browse, they can favorite products and even arrange for them to be placed in a dressing room ahead of arrival, Signature CEO David Hegarty tells Mashable. They can also make appointments and leave messages for associates, and see which ones are on the floor. A built-in QR code reader lets them scan signage for trend and product information displayed in-store.

It’s a small step, but could signify the start of some very cool and very welcome changes to retail.

Also, my apologies for using the word “cyberspace” in the title of this post. 

(Via Mashable)