Project Glass by Google

This week I thought I would investigate what’s been going on at, arguably, the world’s most digitally advanced company. Google has been working tirelessly playing catch up to Apple, secretly creating a new technology that could flip the smartphone industry upside down. Earlier this year, Google released information on their revolutionary prototype Project Glass, a pair of glasses that layers digital information over the real world. Through augmented reality head-mounted display (HDM), the user sees the same kind of information they are used to seeing on their smartphone, except the physical device is transparent. They can make voice and video calls, read text messages, and listen to music and view maps. The device will rely heavily on voice command and recognition, a technology that is yet to be mastered. In the prototype video (see below) when the user moves their head, the point-of-view of the headset moves with them. They can make selections and control the device by tilting their head. Google admits the hardware is far from perfect, but it is predicted they will be commercially available by the end of 2013 for an estimated $1,500.

Because the headset is so light and doesn’t cover the eyes, the aim is for the viewer to actually forget that they are in fact wearing a computer interface and accept the graphic image that is offers as its own virtual world. Critics of the technology fear a dystopia. The headwear is intended to be worn throughout one’s entire daily life, enhancing each task and helping you “explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment”. Is it possible that the technology becomes so integrated into our lives that Google will alter our sense of reality? In other words, can what we know to be “virtual reality” one day become our actual reality? Technology has already invaded our lives and I would argue that many would find it impossible to live with out their smartphone. Commercially available augmented reality hardware would further develop human’s reliability on technology. In the nearer future, there is the concern that advertising will infiltrate the user’s immediate vision. Currently, Google’s main source of revenue is advertising. However, they have stated they have no plans to introduce ads to Project Glass.

There many questions yet to be answered about the technology and the prototypes seem far from flawless. The idea is ingenious from Google and is the first time they have ventured to hardware design; traditionally it has stuck to creating software and operating systems and simply outsourced the hardware design. I’m more than sure Apple is working on their own head-mounted technology but they usually keep very quiet about the on-goings at head office. It will be interesting to see who will be first to release a version to the public. Either way, Apple’s is sure to look more stylish than Google’s.


Regulating Social Media

Following a complaint to the Australia Advertising Standards Board, a judgment was made that comments by “fans” on Smirnoff Vodka’s Facebook page were considered “advertisements” and must therefore comply with industry regulatory codes and consumer protection laws.

The watchdog heard that a fan of the Facebook page commented that Smirnoff was “the purest Russian vodka” and would lead to success with the opposite sex. John Swinson, a partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons explained to The Age that Smirnoff is Australian, not Russian and it may not be the purest. The comment also implies that you would have greater success with girls also contravenes Australian advertising codes. Industry codes not only apply to what a company posts on its Facebook page, but also to user-generated comments that followed. As the comments weren’t removed, Smirnoff was held liable for the actions of its “fan”.

Brands are increasingly relying on Facebook “word-of-month” to reach, not only fans, but also their social circles. There is currently very little legislation that governs the use of social media by brands and the decision handed down to Smirnoff just a few weeks ago has already caused havoc in the corporate world. Particularly for larger companies, constantly monitoring social media pages is impossible.

Activity can’t be completely controlled, but it can be managed. When a member of the public posts a complaint or an inaccurate statement on Facebook, companies need to respond immediately clarifying the issue. The problem facing corporations and their adverting agencies is that the Internet doesn’t close down at 5pm everyday nor does online activity cease over the weekend. If anything, user activity on social media increases after business hours. This poses a great challenge particularly to large corporations like Smirnoff who have a following of over 180 000 people.

Recent consumer trends would suggest that the risks of social media are only minor compared to its benefits. Consumers are increasingly using the Internet, and in particular Facebook, to research brands and products before making purchases. 85 per cent of Australians who are connected to the Internet use it as a resource to research, compare and seek advice about their shopping. 61 per cent use search engines, 50 per cent check the brand’s website, and 23 per cent use Facebook (source). I would challenge the last figure. Realistically, it is probably higher considering that a Google search will return the brand’s Facebook page and brand websites have links to their social media pages. Most consumers may not be going directly to Facebook, but they are certainly being directed there.

It is impossible to completely control the activity of users and fans, but strategies should be implemented to manage activity on public pages. Companies don’t have a choice: they need to be using social media as a marketing tool to positively promote their brands and now they must also comply with rapidly evolving standards and legislation.

The Kiwi Sceptics

The Kiwi Sceptics is an online-only reality series that launched in Februrary 2012. Each episode of the Air New Zealand campaign follows an Australian ‘Kiwi Sceptic’ on their surprise journey across the ‘ditch’ to NZ. Each episode focuses on a particular type of sceptic like ‘The Hipster’ who thinks New Zealand is overrun by sheep and ‘The Bali Girl’ who prefers beach resorts and day spas. Sceptics are paired with a New Zealand entertainment personality who joins them on a specifically tailored trip based on the sceptics’ interests.

The campaign is the airline’s largest in the Australian market in the last 10 years. The focus on Australian sceptics came after research discovered that while there are 5.3 million Aussies who would consider New Zealand as a holiday destination, only one in five of these people actually made it across the ‘ditch’. The creative online content was aimed at the young and young-at-heart with the aim of breaking down traditional stereotypes that Aussie’s have of New Zealand. The mini-series depicts something for everyone, whether it is the picturesque scenery, thrill-seeking adventures or the inviting local culture.

The campaign was supported by the Nine Entertainment Company, which hosted a Kiwi Sceptics page within the ninemsn website. The rollout specifically bombarded Australian news and entertainment websites such as with advertising banners and video commercials and the series has received over 12 million views on Youtube.

After the online hype of the campaign had begun to subside, Air New Zealand released a final episode following Lara Bingle on a winter escape (see below). The latest episode reinvigorated the series’ social media presence as the promotion with Bingle heavily tapped into her extensive fan followings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Air New Zealand took a leap in their choice of online content over traditional television advertisements and it certainly paid off. The airline won advertising awards for its ‘Branded Content and Entertainment’ at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.



Welcome to Let’s Get Digital

Marketing has come a long way since the Production Era where at the very beginning of capitalism it was believed that “supply creates its own demand” (Say’s Law of Market). In the new Social Era of marketing, companies need to utlise the new tools and avenues that the Internet has created for advertising. There is an open-flow of information about us available online and our connectedness means that advertising has become heavily concentrated, targeting ultra specific audiences. Marketers need to be willing to adopt new practices as they rapidly develop and implement them more effectively than their competitors.

Living in an increasingly digitalised world, the Internet has become deeply ingrained into our day-to-day lives. It is no wonder that marketers have tapped into our connectedness within the online world. Let’s Get Digital examines the initiatives of the world’s most innovative companies that are leading the way in online marketing.