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.

Does Sex Sell?

Before I delve into this charged and heavily argued subject, let me just start by asking you to think back. Try to remember the brand behind the commercial that I am going to try and describe to you now. It begins with a rock guitar solo and a scene of guys playing football. It then cuts to different scenes of guys roughhousing, quarterbacks getting tackled and other masculine imagery. All the while there is a voice in the background narrating and describing the different scenes that are depicted. For example, “I love… playing two hand touch, eating way too much… watching my team win… with the twins!” After he says “twins,” two scantily clad beautiful blondes jump up with pom-poms in their hands. This ad was continued in a series for…were you able to remember?

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If you were able to remember then congratulations. If you weren’t, this begs the question, were you more interested in the girls, or the beer? How about the commercial with Paris Hilton washing the car? Or, the commercial with the two voluptuous women fighting and tearing their clothes off over the taste of the beer? Maybe you remembered the brands, maybe you didn’t. After I polled a few guys, I soon realized that a lot of these commercials left a lasting effect on them because of the models in the commercials. When asked what the brand was behind the commercial many times they were not able to remember. This shows us that although many brands are using sex as a tool, the effect of this has been blunted by a disconnect that the advertisers may not be aware of or even ever considered. It’s that sex can overwhelm the message and easily dilute the essence of a brand if not used carefully.

How about the ads with the three frogs hanging out by the bar near the lagoon? Yeah, you’ve got it, it’s Budweiser! This commercial had no models and did not objectify women in any way. Yet, it accomplished its goal by holding the audience’s attention and has been regarded as one of the most memorable ads in history.

Does this mean then that we can write off sex as a way to garner a select demographics attention? No, not at all. When a brand has been built around this theme then it can only reinforce the message. For example, Hooters, Playboy, etc… Well, you might say that these don’t count as they are obviously linked and might be a no-brainer. But, it has been shown that sex also reinforces brands that ultimately have to do with attraction; like colognes, perfumes, clothing, etc. An example of this would be the Acqua Di Gio model who became the face and body of the brand for years and successfully reinforced the core essence of the brand; sex and attraction. Also, Fcuk, a clever way to utilize French connection’s U.K. brand by deliberately confusing the audience into thinking the brand is a more commonly used four-letter word. The campaign that was launched behind this idea was a huge success and Fcuk went on to generate a huge leap in revenue sales. And, what about the Axe Effect commercials? There is another example of how sex reinforces a brand that is ultimately built around the idea of attraction.

What can we take from this? In the digital age that we live, we are bombarded with thousands of advertisements on a daily basis and advertising agencies are struggling to fight for our attention. This means that some believe the easiest way to do this, even if for just a few seconds, is to appeal to our base desires. What many agencies don’t realize is that this could lead to the deconstruction of a brand by confusing the viewer or not reaching them at all. It is important to remember the core of the brand and to never forget that the easiest way out is not always the best.

What is 451 Marketing?

I often get asked to force-fit our agency into predetermined labels. For instance, I was recently signing up for an event and was asked the question: “Are you an advertising agency, a public relations agency, an interactive agency, a social media agency, or a marketing agency?” I had to choose one, so I chose “marketing agency.”

The truth is, we have elements of all of these pre-existing terms and categories, but we are really much more than that. Further, the term “marketing agency” makes most people think of the stodgy traditional shops, which we are not. On one hand, our expertise can easily be categorized – lead generation through new media. But one might ask if that categorical description is something that people can mentally digest…quickly? After all, if we are going to label ourselves shouldn’t we do it in a way that is straightforward and potentially unique? Maybe we could go with – “Lead generation through the strategizing and execution of social media campaigns, traditional public relations, PR 2.0, search leveraged public relations, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, advertising, and branding and positioning”… I know, way to long.

How about, “451 Marketing, the agency that makes a lot of money in a short amount of time for their clients by using quantifiable techniques?” Getting closer, but still think people would probably want something a little more refined. We could try something that talks about our commitment to being at the forefront of our industry, describes our constant efforts to know more, apply more, and educate each other on the latest and greatest in new media. We need to create some way to convey how we bring better ROI’s for our clients compared to our competitors? Maybe, “451 Marketing, constantly working to be at the forefront of new media and delivering ROI’s like no one else?” Nah… not in love with it, still to long. I think we need something that captures it all in one succinct impactful statement.

Maybe something like… 451 Marketing, “The Leader in New Media CommunicationsTM“. I like it!

AJ Gerritson, Founding Partner at 451 Marketing