Monthly Archives: February 2016

Million Dollar Homepage

IAB: A U-Turn on the Ad-Blocking Superhighway?

Ad-blocking is the new normal. With the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) having launched its LEAN Ads program worldwide, I look a little closer at the initiative — and what it implies for the future of online advertising.

While I agree with the theory of the LEAN initiative (which stands for light, encrypted, ad-choice supported, and non-invasive), the implementation leaves a little to be desired. Less placement opportunities for publishers and more constraints for distribution platforms seem an Orwellian reaction to an industry still reeling from the arrival of HTML5.

pagefair-mapToday, almost one in five Internet users in the UK (and rising) have an ad-blocker installed. Advertising revenue is being wasted on unseen ads, ad fraud and ‘bots, while scripts, videos and bloated bandwidth are inflating mobile data plans. The target audience and brands are crying ‘foul’. And although LEAN addresses some of these tactical concerns, it fails to address the broader problems.

Fortunately, there are ways through this thorny problem but, much like global warming, we’re not going to like it; agencies, distribution platforms, publishers and clients are all going to have to work together if we’re to move forward.

Firstly, as always, we need to get creative. Take the humble 200kb online ad; often delegated to artworking teams, many with meagre budgets, fast turnaround times and low expectations.

Incorporating digital innovation, such as dynamic/rotating content; leveraging speed using Content Delivery Networks as well as programmatic and other user-targeting techniques; and developing content-led creative — instead of just containers for content delivery — may eventually endear the user to brands and increase engagement. This approach will create ads that evolve and can last an entire campaign — simultaneously reducing media spend while increasing clickthroughs. Blocking ad-blockers is a road to nowhere.

Secondly, leaders in this area (such as Guardian Labs) are inviting users to become part of the equation. An extension of the IAB-approved ‘AdChoices’ concept, Google’s Contributor platform for DoubleClick (which is yet to roll out to the UK), allows ‘subscribers’ to pay a monthly fee to remove ads. However, this will only work if all ads are removed in the subscription, and the profit model replaces the revenue stream (and doesn’t increase it). If there’s one thing online businesses should learn, it’s that transparency is key to success.

crystal_page_load_timesLastly, publishers, clients and media planners seem to have opted for quantity, not quality. Those that work harder with their partners, leveraging brand depth instead of reach, to gain the first-mover advantage (reducing impressions and incorporating native/sponsored/branded content) will be the first to reap the low-hanging fruit; leaving competitors, paywalls and ad blockers scrambling in their wake.

There has been some sizeable changes in the digital display industry in 2015, but for a long time users have always wanted the same thing from advertising: make it useful.

Show me what I need, just before I need it. 

Most users don’t want to block all advertising; they just want to see advertising that is appropriate to them (by definition, ads not intended for them are — at the very least — poorly targeted). We have many more creative digital tools to enable this to happen.

The industry has alienated our customers with irrelevant advertisements force-fed to them en masse — let’s work hard (and together) to get them back on board.

They’ll thank us for it.

“Million Dollar Homepage” © 2005 Alex Tew
“Ad Blocking Usage by Country”© 2015 PageFair/Adobe
“iOS Page Load Time in Seconds” © 2015 Mark Wilson/Beta News

Keeping streets clean: vote with your butt

We all want clean and safe spaces around us. Public polling discovered that a staggering 86% of people think littering is a disgusting habit yet only 15% of us would actually confront someone and tell them that. Taking pride in the areas we live and work in helps to build better communities, and saves money.

This is why from May to October, UK crowdfunding network Hubbub trialled a new approach to tackling littering on Villiers Street, Westminster, using the latest thinking on behaviour change and awareness raising from around the world.

Hubbub’s 5 point litter manifesto:

We think that everyone can work together to make local spaces cleaner, safer and more inviting. Let’s all put litter in its place:

  • Government: Don’t loiter on litter. Create a strategy that has teeth.  Show leadership by providing or stimulating funding.  Engage with the signatories of the Litter Prevention Commitment and other important stakeholders to create a robust plan winning widespread support.
  • Businesses, NGO’s and Local Authorities: Act with a unified voice to raise litter up the agenda with government and the public. Share bright ideas and support innovative, collaborative behaviour change schemes nationwide.
  • Local Organisations: Work to create new coalitions, taking local action on litter. Business Improvement Districts take a leadership role and share results so that successes can be replicated elsewhere.
  • Media! You have a role too. Help bring this issue seriously back into public debate. Capture the imagination of the public, promoting pride in local areas.
  • Everyone: Litter is in your hands, and will only change if we change our behaviours. Let’s wise up and bin it. Taking pride in our neighbourhoods will save money and help build better communities.

Inspired to run your own campaign? Click here for more information on replicating Neat Streets.

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Werner Herzog Talks Virtual Reality

“I am convinced that this is not going to be an extension of cinema or 3-D cinema or video games. It is something new, different, and not experienced yet,” the filmmaker Werner Herzog said of virtual reality. An interview by Patrick House with the filmmaker about simulation and experience.


The Website Obesity Crisis

Incredibly humorous, well-written and researched article by Maciej CegÅ‚owski about bloated website size — branching into Russian literature, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook’s Instant Articles. It’s the text version of the talk he gave on October 29, 2015, at the Web Directions conference in Sydney.

Topics covered include:

  1. The Crisis
  2. Fake Fixes
  3. Fat Ads
  4. Fat Assets
  5. Chickenshit Minimalism
  6. Interface Sprawl
  7. Heavy Clouds
  8. Stirring Conclusion


Giorgia Lupi @ Accurat

Giorgia Lupi is an information designer in Brooklyn, New York. Her work and research challenges the impersonality that data might communicate, designing engaging visual narratives able to connect numbers to what they stand for: knowledge, behaviors, people. She is co-founder and design director at Accurat, a data driven research-design and innovation firm. She has been drawing weekly data as 1/2 of Dear Data from New York.


Optical Data Storage Squeezes 360TB on to a Quartz Disc — Forever

Researchers at Southampton University in the UK have now written a series of major works to small glass discs– including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the Magna Carta and the Kings James Bible. The density of the data aboard these discs suggests that they could squeeze a total of 360 terabytes onto a single piece of quartz. They also point out that the data is extremely stable: It could endure for as long as 13.8 billion years at temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


Overpass Light Brigade

In Wisconsin the government is trying to privatise water – there are many problems with this.

The Overpass Light Brigade was forged in the activist climate of the Wisconsin Uprising. Our messages shine at night over highways and other public spaces. We believe in the power of communities coming together in physical space, as well as the importance of visibility for grassroots and progressive causes. We are a loose and inclusive affiliation of people dedicated to the power of peaceful protest and artful activism.

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ACPAD – the wireless electronic orchestra for your guitar

ACPAD is the world’s first wireless MIDI controller for acoustic guitar. Play thousands of instruments, trigger unlimited sound samples and effects, live record loops… without taking your hand off your guitar!

  • 8x Touch Pads: ACPAD has eight pressure sensitive touch pads that can be assigned to any MIDI intrument, Sound effect or sample that you can imagine
  • 10x Preset Buttons: You can also customize and save up to 25 presets for quick access during and between songs
  • 2x Looper Channels: There are two looper channels that you can use to live record, trigger or stop loops from your guitar
  • 2x Slider Faders: ACPAD also has two sliders to modulate the intensity of your sounds and effects while playing.


The Blockchain Institute: Beyoncé vs Bitcoin

I wonder how long it will be before this form of e-parody explodes.

If you look on Twitter, you will find that someone set up the Blockchain Institute. Perhaps this official-sounding organisation will come up with some good ideas as to the practical application of blockchain?

A quick look through the institute’s Twitter mentions shows people thanking it for sharing conferences and blogs, criticising it for not crediting imagesincluding it in conversationsconnecting it with friends, and asking it questions. But the Blockchain Institute is a computer program. Not only that, it’s a program that tweets nonsense.

It replaces the word blockchain with Beyoncé and bitcoin with feminism. If it sees a tweet that says “blockchain is a star because of bitcoin” it changes it to “Beyoncé is a star because of feminism”. There is no new content. The computer program does word substitution. Nothing more complex. Yet people are struggling to spot that it’s simply copying other people’s thoughts, words and ideas and – for some reason known only to its creator – adding in a bit of extra Beyoncé and feminism.

People are trusting opinions without recognising they are coming from a machine, or that they don’t actually make any sense.

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