Black Friday Gives Way To Cyber Monday

Who wants to get up at 5 am on their day off? That is the attitude many Americans have embraced since wiping Black Friday off of their schedules. But thanks to the fast paced technologically advanced world we live in, consumers no longer have to cut coupons and set alarms to receive the best deals on their Holiday gifts. The consumer driven world is based on instant gratification and marketers have developed a plan that adheres to all their demands

Over the past two years, retailers have morphed their infamous shopping day into a new tradition: Cyber Monday. According to Fast Company, “Cyber Monday sales totaled $687 million” in 2006. Since the majority of consumers’ online purchases are made during business hours anyways, retailers learned to apply this trend to revitalize our holiday shopping experience.

We now have the best of both the materialistic and affectionate worlds during the holiday season: we can enjoy quality time with our family and friends and still purchase our “must have” items. The only fall back is that consumer’s now spend Monday scanning the Internet at work looking for great gift ideas instead of focusing on their normal everyday responsibilities and tasks. Crossing our fingers that our boss won’t catch us! But this change in pace has also caused a seismic shift in the advertising world. Budgets for print and broadband ads are being redistributed into interactive/digital campaigns. The alteration in distribution channels has clients fighting for their banners and skyscrapers to run during this crucial timeline. But marketers have embraced this change. The interactive switch gives them the in the opportunity to create promotional campaigns that will generate a larger database of qualified sales leads and a more accurate account and understanding of their target market.

Consumers shopping habits are evolving and simultaneously, the advertising world must follow suit. Seasons greetings from new media!

New Media Expedites The Demise Of MTV's TRL

This past Sunday, MTV bid farewell to one of the most iconic programs the network has ever produced over the course of its near 30-year history. “Total Request Live,” or “TRL”, officially signed off the air for one last time, marking the end of the road for a show known just as well for launching the careers of “diverse” pop stars like Kid Rock and Christina Aguilera, as it was for it’s steadfastly devoted audience of teenagers (whom either spent after school hours glued to the TV set, or frolicking outside MTV’s studios in Times Square).

But whether you liked the show and what it stood for (obsessive admiration over artists, actors, and other “hip” figures getting their 15-minutes of fame), you had to respect the fact that at the height of its popularity, TRL symbolized the power of MTV to shape mainstream American culture.

That’s because while neither Limp Bizkit nor the Backstreet Boys were creating anything of transcendent quality, the appeal of these groups to the young masses, coupled with TRL’s unparalleled ability to let fans vote for their favorite videos and display their popular musical allegiance, did transcend the way viewers consumed music and supported (or gave “props” to) their idols. In essence, if fans kept voting for them, TRL’s most (in)famous host, Carson Daly, would provide viewers with immediate access to their favorite videos and frequent live appearances from the artists themselves. And, over time, fans began to demand this instant access. Band’s started building elaborate websites, albums came loaded with interactive media, and the music video continued the climb (that began with innovative videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer“) to its perch as the most defining aspect of the pop-oriented musician’s brand. That’s right, TRL was transcending the way we interacted with music, while at the same time, was serving as a band’s primary branding tool.

Admittedly, when I was of high school age I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was a lot more concerned with aligning myself with the brands of such “alternative” rockers as Staind and Papa Roach. Did I think they made great music? Probably not. But I wanted to disassociate myself from the “boy bands,” so I went to war on a weekly basis (ok, maybe daily) with legions of teenage girls to support my side of the musical aisle. MTV, and the bands I supported must have loved me. I watched the show, voted for the bands, bought the albums, and even purchased the shirts to spread my allegiance, the old fashioned way.

So if TRL was the ultimate pop-culture, brand-building machine, why did the network just host their last show? I’m think it might have to do with the stunning proliferation of new media. Music fans no longer have to rely on TRL to see their band’s favorite videos; they can just as easily go to YouTube. Want to support your favorite band as manically as possible? Join their Facebook group. In a cluttered media landscape and a constant state of information overload, people have tons of different mediums through which to align themselves with, and enjoy, b(r)ands.

Undoubtedly, MTV came to this realization themselves. These days, music fans are just as likely to track a Twitter feed to discover a new band, and then download their video or podcast, then they are to spend a whole hour of their day watching TRL.

Information is moving at breakneck speed and for musicians and the music industry, hopefully this means that quality and skill will win out over the mass marketing and pop culture spin that defined the TRL generation (for better or worse).

Besides, it’s a lot easier to link to your favorite band then it is to buy their T-shirt.

Flash Video Reinvents The PDF

This past summer, the latest version of Adobe Acrobat was released with Flash video support. While this may not seem groundbreaking at first blush (older versions of Acrobat have allowed for embedded video with Quicktime, etc.), Acrobat 9 actually integrates the video directly into the document as opposed to relying on an external video player to be installed on the viewer’s computer. With Acrobat 9, videos can be played directly within a PDF document, in the same way you view videos on YouTube and other video sharing websites.

By integrating this new capability into its Acrobat software, Adobe has taken the static PDF format and reinvented a program capable of creating dynamic and eye catching electronic marketing collateral.

Imagine a real estate agency that would normally email static spec sheets on properties to prospective buyers. How much more interesting would it be for these potential buyers to receive a PDF with a video tour of the property, right there embedded within the PDF? This also opens up a whole new world of possibilities adobe_acrobat12for product support documents. Have you ever downloaded or received a user manual for something you purchased? Wouldn’t it be much more helpful if that manual was embedded with instructional videos of how to operate or put something together? As a new father, I know I would have a lot more hair if I had had instructional videos to go along with the user guides when attempting to put together the stroller, bouncy seat, pack ‘n play, crib, changing table, and Diaper Genie!

With the full Flash integration in this latest release, the previously limited ability to convert web pages into PDFs is significantly enhanced. Until now, it was impossible to capture complete web pages and place them in a PDF document, due to the inclusion of rich and interactive media in most websites. Now the entire page can be captured, which is beneficial in website review as PDF versions of web pages, can be printed, marked up, and shared.

It’s just another cool product released by Adobe that will help marketers get a leg up on their competition by taking advantage of this technology and thinking creatively!

How did you think of that?

“How do you creative guys get your ideas?” I hear that question a lot and my answer is usually that it’s a process. Sometimes you get the “ah ha!” moment in the shower then pretend to spend all day working on it, but unfortunately those are few and far between. Most of the time we actually DO have to work at coming up with a creative idea and I’ll share some of the techniques that work for me.

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I find being present at initial client meetings helps, that’s obvious, but paying attention to the details can help spark an idea that the client might not realize they mentioned, but is right on target. Taking notes helps, but I find making quick sketches of ideas that jump out immediately is important because when you go to the next meeting or the phone rings those potential good ideas just disappear.

Leave some time for day dreaming. There are usually a few key messages that the client is trying to convey and you need some quiet time to think hard about a creative way to make them come to life. Make sure to write down all your ideas, especially the bad ones. Once you write down the bad (or tired and cliched) ideas you get them out of the way and you can move on to the good ones. They’re there; you just have to dig them out.

Don Draper, the Creative Director character on the TV show Mad Men, once suggested to a colleague to think hard about a problem then just forget about it, then the ideas will come. I totally agree, once you plant the seed and you let your brain go on to something else you tend to have ideas pop up. Just be sure to write them down! It will take a few cycles of hard thinking and forgetting, but you’ll be amazed at what comes up.

Keep a pad and a pen handy by the bed. After a long day of work your brain has been processing all kinds of information with no time to rest and make sense of it all. The only time that it gets a rest is when you sleep. I find that the time just before you fall asleep can be a very fertile time for creative ideas. If you take that time to let your mind wander to your project (in a non-stressful way) great ideas will make their way to the surface. In that time between sleep and consciousness I usually come up with my best ideas. I tell myself that I’ll remember the idea in the morning, but if I don’t force myself to write it down then it’s gone and I spend the rest of the day scrambling to figure out what it was!

Finally, whether you have a pressing project or not, a good habit to get into is to be aware of things around you. Take a close look at buildings, ads, magazines, movies etc. and store them away. There are a ton of great ideas out there if you keep an eye out for them.

Marketing in Arabic

Companies worldwide have finally realized that the Middle Eastern market and Arabic speaking consumers are an under serviced demographic. As a result, there is a growing demand for modern Arabic typefaces. More and more international corporations are seeking out Arab designers to create custom fonts and logos to appeal to the Middle Eastern market. Just recently, the BBC launched an Arabic TV channel (BBC Arabic), and MTV followed suite with MTV Arabiya broadcasting from Dubai.

As a graphic designer from the Middle East, I find it just as easy to design Arabic fonts as it is to design and develop Latin (English) fonts.The biggest challenge really comes down to application. The cursive, calligraphic forms of traditional Arabic text – though aesthetically pleasing – simply doesn’t fulfill the needs of our media-driven society. Historically, both Arabic and Latin alphabets are rooted in calligraphic writing, but the similarities end there. One major difference is how the typefaces are designed. Latin typefaces are constructed vertically and the same letter is set and spaced apart from the other characters. With Arabic letter forms, there are no capitals yet the same letter can have up to four forms depending on where it falls in a word. They also tend to be more calligraphic since letters within a word are physically linked to each other by a continuous horizontal stroke.

The challenges Arabic type designers are facing today is developing modern fonts for online reading (or screen fonts) as well as fonts that are legible at very small type sizes. There’s also high demand on stylistic Arabic fonts for use in displays and signage.

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Just the other day, I came across a new Arabic display typeface for the “Ibn Battuta Mall” in Dubai. It’s always refreshing to discover a new Arabic type face that can be applied bilingually. “Bukra Extra Bold” was developed by Lebanese type designer Pascal Zoghbi, and is based on the well-known Latin font “Futura Extra Bold”. Designing an Arabic type face with such short ascenders and descenders is no easy feat, especially with a thick pen stroke. “Bukra Extra Bold” reflects the sturdiness and geometric simplicity of its Latin counterpart perfectly.

Contemporary Arabic type design is at the brink of a new and exciting millennium. The past decade has witnessed the influential work of many Arab designers and the market for Arabic type faces will continue to expand. What I’m left wondering is… Will Latin fonts be able to keep up? For more info on Arabic and Latin font differences, click here.