Monthly Archives: November 2011

How effective are your Call to Actions?

With any advertising materials, getting prospective customers to act now is a must. Call-to-actions are essential and should never be neglected. As the name entails, a call-to-action is a button or a link that directs visitors to take some sort of  action: download something, make a purchase, read an article, sign up for an email notification, etc. Color, language, size, font, web placements of CTA’s should be well thought out. A good CTA should be outstanding and let the user know what’s going to happen next. People like being led to a next step. They like easy and convenient, and CTA’s give them the chance for stress-free web navigation.

Magdalena Georgieva offers 10 best practices to optimize the language of CTA’s:

  • Convey Value
  • Create Urgency
  • Make it Personal
  • Include Testimonials
  • Include Numbers
  • Turn it Into a Bonus
  • Make it Newsworthy
  • Be Confident in Your Language
  • Ask Questions
  • Be Subtle

To read  more, click here!

How successful have your CTA’s been?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

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Technology News

In the upcoming week, these are some subjects you may find yourself talking about:

AT&T has activated its LTE (4G) service in New York City. When AT&T made an announcement earlier this month, it said that the rollout would begin very soon, but some users have noticed the LTE icon on their phones. AT&T has not announced the release, so the LTE connection may be temporary. This will not be changing the lives of people with 3G-only compatible phones, which includes all iPhones, but the new batch of Android phones will be able to take advantage of the blazing-fast speeds.

Google announced that its “Ice Cream Sandwich” operating system will be included in the much-anticipated Galaxy launch on December 8. This will be the last mobile operating system to have a mobile Flash feature. I think this is an interesting turn of events, considering Adobe very recently announced that Flash is being discontinued––I did not think its end would come so soon.

Microsoft is moving away from its disastrous XP operating system, announcing that as of 2014 it will no longer issue security or software updates. At the same time, it offered previews of its Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft, like other software companies, is thinking past the PC, and the new operating system will be usable on tablets and mobile devices.

Author: Susan Hallinan

Canada’s Currency Goes Paperless!

In an effort to make its currency more secure, Canada is moving to polymer-based bank notes. All right, so this is not “paperless” per se, but it got you reading, didn’t it? Seriously, though, this move from a paper- to a plastic-based note has many advantages and ramifications for the current system.

For starters, security is the main priority. Gone are the days when a fly-by-night counterfeiter can scan and print out a bill on his desktop printer. Although these delinquents are most often caught, I am sure that some of them get away with it given the right techniques of printing and aging. The polymer notes are virtually impossible to counterfeit using consumer-available products. Take a moment and watch this video, which highlights the security measures in place.

Besides the enhanced security features, this polymer note will extend the life expectancy of the currency, which will in turn reduce the need to constantly replenish the inventory. The presumable hope is that the increased costs will be offset by the longer life of the product. Needless to say, the costs associated with polymer notes as opposed to paper notes will be greatly offset by putting an end to counterfeit currency.

While the implementation cycle––from now until late 2013––may seem drawn out, this marks a turn of events in the currency markets, and more countries are guaranteed to follow Canada’s lead. The question is: When will the USA upgrade its currency to these standards?

Author: John Mehl

Benetton’s Ad Campaign Leaves Some Furious and Me Laughing

There’s nothing I more enjoy seeing than people pushing the envelope and making a fuss over things controversial to some and trivial to others.

An advertising campaign showing political and religious leaders kissing on the mouth has recently gotten the attention of many important groups. From the White House to the Vatican, many are outraged at photos of these leaders being used as advertising creative.

Benetton, an Italian clothing company, said on its website that the campaign is meant to support the Unhate Foundation, which opposes hate and is “aimed at exorcising the ‘fear of the other.’”

The ‘Unhate’ campaign strikes a chord with the public on many levels. In this way, I deem this campaign incredibly successful already (even bad press is good press, right?). A successful company decides to support an organization whose corporate objectives are to eliminate an abuse that’s incredibly popular in mainstream media today. You can’t turn on a news station or talk show without hearing about bullying.

To oppose the campaign puts you almost in a camp of hate support. To even the most liberal opposer, it suggests that, while you may be against evil in the world, the fact that you’re against a controversial ad talking about it makes your stance moot.

We have satirical political cartoons that go much further than this campaign. Moreover, some of these cartoons challenge authority, condemn inappropriate behavior, even suggest, dare I say it, hate. And yet, we Westerners get by every day without the threat of attack. We get by knowing that these pieces are meant to simply challenge us intellectually. To make us think about some—sometimes—very important issues.

There are real problems in this world. Was showing our President kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao a tasteful way of bringing them to our attention? Right now, I can’t think of a better way.

Author: Eric Swenson

Nook, Your Tablet Set My iPad on Fire. Are tablets killing the adoption of mobile computing?

Shortly after the iPad 2 launch, the late Steve Jobs welcomed the iMasses into the “post-PC era.” So, post-PC netizens, where are we now?

Let’s review. Apple has a mountain of apps, Amazon has its thunderous cloud, and Barnes and Noble has stacks of books, but who will win the battle of the single-purpose e-readers? The Kindle Fire has Amazon’s huge cloud presence plus some of the cloud-processing and storage services missing from the competition. The Fire lacks cellular data, which means you are tied to Wi-Fi with a petite data stomach; the Fire may leave heavy data-storage users hungry. The tablet and, more importantly, mini-tablet markets are changing, but does it really matter? No. Here’s why.

Mini-tablets comprise the growing market of devices that aren’t iPads or smartphones or laptops or netbooks. These devices tend to be large, pocket-friendly units that are multimedia consumption devices with single-use potential. Encouraging users to consume media and providing a pipe to the mothership’s storefront (an app store) is the operating strategy of these low-priced devices. Much like cigarette makers, the tablet manufacturers and marketplace shopkeepers hope to get users addicted to content for the shiny, colorful screen and then make them pay for all the new, delicious media pieces that the never-ending publishing, music, and movie industries can churn out.

Just how preposterous is this idea of mini-tablets? Let’s examine a few analogies.

Take, for instance, the car industry; assume that every car manufacturer also manufactures all the gas. In order to use your car, you must buy gas from your car manufacturer’s station in order to drive. I don’t think so!

What about a newspaper publisher? What if every publisher owned the store that sells the paper and you could only buy certain brands at one store or face paying a higher premium at a competitor for the same title? Doubtful!

But wait, there’s more.

Take my personal favorite, the desktop printer. First, when a consumer buys a printer, he or she is buying a single-purpose device to be used for one primary function: PRINTING! Yet in order to print, you must spend gobs of money on ink every time one of the colors runs out. (Check out this dated piece by PCWorld on inkjet costs.)

The tablet market is essentially the same. User buys tablet, user becomes addicted to multimedia content from the comfort of his or her lap, user shells out mountains of cash to consume the most current content. This is all fine and dandy until the user wants something that is exclusively tied to another marketplace or device. Then the user waits for the content to be available or consumes it via a different medium, say from a, gasp, bookstore or, double gasp, physical video distribution method like Redbox, Netflix (by mail), or a theatre. Add in the complexity of the app, not just the media content, and the tablet market is even messier.

Why are single-use devices to attractive to the byte-obsessed, always-connected, touchscreen-loving, SMS crowd?
Simple. They do one thing well (or so the advertising tells us). The lower the price at which a user can buy a device that does one thing well, the more attractive these media-consumption portals appear to be. Little do the users know (well, they probably do, but go with it) that once they get addicted to the sweet taste of femur-supported, organized pixel displays of pleasure, delivering virtually all their media requests, that either a big credit card bill or heaping pile of disappointment and frustration lies ahead. They have to choose: Cough up the greenbacks for more digital editions of Wired or The Daily or Mad Men or be left out in the Wi-Fi-required cold with too small a tank to hold their media fuel and no fuel in sight.

Warning, the following content is not suitable for all viewers. Viewer discretion is advised for those who can’t handle the truth.

Segmenting content into different marketplaces may be a great way to make a buck, but it kills the adoption of new technology.

Tablets lack innovation.
Other than the Motorola Xoom, no one has brought anything really cool to the table. Apple gave us the iPad and added gimmicky software, such as gestures and a magnet in the body of the tablet to turn the screen off. Don’t get me wrong––these are great, innovative features––but other than the iPad being the first device to feature them, what is their wow factor? Nothing yet. Make media consumption on my single-purpose device better, damn it. Maybe the 3D obsession was supposed to be a new source of amazement. Yawn… Palm was onto something with the TouchPad and its ability to transfer applications from one device (the Pixi or Pre) to another (like the TouchPad), but bad timing and poor management killed that tech. All we can hope for is that HP may revive it.

Non-smart, non-connected, non-location devices are pointless.
If the phone is the rowboat to all that is digital, then the tablet should be the luxury cruise liner, right? Well, why doesn’t what is on the market match the expectation that bigger should mean more functions? Ford Taurus drivers who upgrade to a Porsche expect more features, so when I upgrade my clunky desktop, laptop, VCR, or library card to a tablet, I should get more features (and not content fences). Likewise, users who have an iOS or Android phone expect more when upgrading to a tablet, but these expectations fall short with the Fire and Nook Tablet. Then again, it may not be an upgrade but rather a segmentation of function, essentially taking reading and watching from a phone and moving it to a tablet. The lack of GPS and cellular data kills the mobile function. Part of the enhanced reading experience is the ability to interact with rich multimedia and content from the web or to pop out to a web browser to follow a call to action in a piece of media. One question: Why don’t advertisers focus more on selling ads for rich, location-enabled devices and the platforms that they use?

There is planned tech obsolescence.
OK, planned obsolescence may be a bit extreme, but users who buy a mini-tablet and want feature upgrades like GPS and cellular data are left hanging. Their addiction to content makes them reliant on one marketplace, with few options for upgrading.

As of yet, we haven’t seen a tablet that changes the model with which we interact with content on a mobile platform. Many would argue that the mini-tablets and tablets have taken media consumption out of the house and moved it anywhere the user wants to go. This is true as long as the user has planned all the content he or she wants to consume before leaving the warm comfort of Wi-Fi. Single-purpose media consumption devices serve just one purpose––media consumption––but without data connection and a rich feature set, these simple devices are changing the behavior of users. What the future impact of these changes will be, we shall find out, but competition in the market is a good thing so far, as long as the jump from mini-tablet to smart tablet becomes shorter and filled with more options.

What say you––are single-purpose mini-tablets useful in widening the adoption of mobile technology and media consumption?

Check out some comparisons of the iPad2, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire here, here, here, and here.

Author: John Carew

What is the Cloud?

“Clouds” and “cloud computing” are currently the tech terms du jour, but what are they?

Cloud computing allows you to keep data, software, and applications in a single pool of computer resources and not in a single computer. The advantage to the user is accessibility: Start a document at your work computer using Google docs and finish the document at home. The payoff for businesses is even bigger: It changes their focus from hardware to, well, business.

There are 3 categories of cloud computing:

Infrastructure as a service: Instead of buying servers or network equipment, a business can “rent” a block of space from an office service company. The service provider is responsible for maintaining and updating the equipment.

Platform as a service: The business is able to use software and product development tools that are owned and licensed by the provider. The business pays for the time spent using the software or tools.

Software as a service: Also known as “on-demand software,” this software is on the cloud and can be accessed by the Internet. Examples of software as a service are GoogleDocs and web-based email.

Advantages:

  • Information is always available
  • Large storage centers (servers) are off-site
  • Easily scalable
  • Takes burden off in-house IT department

Disadvantages:

  • Dependence on a third party for maintenance and security
  • Loss of control of personal information and data

Author: Susan Hallinan

9/11 Memories of 90 West Street and the Retirement of a Salesman’s Salesman

The first ad for the newly completed 90 West Street, future home of Vanguard Direct for 16 years between 1985 and 2001.

On November 17, after 23 years with Vanguard Direct, Richie Ravalia will be retiring. Richie is in sales, and although his charm, wit, and knowledge will be missed, what will be missed most of all is his personal dedication to his clients. When I first started here at Vanguard Direct, I sat next to Richie and was impressed that he kept index cards for each of his clients with personal information culled over years of talking to them. He would know children’s names, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and would use these as reasons to call, which eventually would lead to an order. He was a salesman’s salesman.

Unbeknownst to many, I spent the morning of 9/11 with Richie and his wife, Mary, after evacuating Vanguard’s offices at 90 West Street. As the story goes, after the first tower collapsed, I found shelter in the cement halls of the old South Ferry building with about a dozen or so other frightened strangers. We were told to stay put because the second tower was coming down, which we did. After the second tower came down and the dust cleared, I emerged. I will never forget the dust-covered streets, the smells, and the sounds. One of the first sounds I heard was someone shouting my name: “Hey, Caska!” It was Richie.

With Mary clutching his arm, we eventually evacuated Lower Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry, which was followed by a NYC bus ride to the foot of the Bayonne Bridge. We walked up the ramp with the intent of crossing the bridge by foot. We were headed the same way––Richie and Mary to their home in Cliffside Park , and me to the NJ Transit trains in Hoboken. As luck would have it, a Polish plumber in a van pulled over in response to my extended thumb (Richie says it was Mary’s leg) and gave us a ride to the light rail in Bayonne. Since the light rail was not complete, we could only go as far Port Imperial and then had to walk the balance of the way to Hoboken. Toward the end of our journey, I received a phone call, which I answered “Tony’s Pizza.” It was Ralph Fucci checking on me, not knowing I had company. He was relieved to hear our voices and learn that we were none the worse for the wear and tear.

That would be the end of the tale, but in the days leading up to Richie’s retirement, I was handed a copy of the Printers’ Ink publication from February 20, 1907. This was loaned to me by a friend from his small collection of letterpress-printed books that were left to him by an old-timer who had retired. They were printed by the man’s grandfather on letterpress equipment that had been scrapped for the metal as offset presses were replacing the old method of hand-set type.

As I skimmed the pages, an advertisement caught my eye on page 31. Here was one of the first ads for rental space at the newly completed 90 West Street, future home of Vanguard Direct for 16 years between 1985 and 2001. The ad reads “Location unsurpassed. Centre of the machinery, coal and iron trades … Architecturally the most beautiful office structure in the world.” Set to open on April 1st, 1907, the building had a grand restaurant on the 24th floor that connected to the roof garden in the summer. 90 West Street was one of the happier stories of 9/11: The building was directly in line with the falling towers but did not collapse. More than three-fourths of the floors were gutted by the flames, and two people lost their lives in the building that day. The woodcut in Printers’ Ink does not do the building justice, so I attached some of the newly restored photos to see the beauty the ad spoke about in 1907. When you look at the ad, you will see that the rental agents were some of our very own Traffic Coordinator Renee Cruikshank’s distant relatives: the Cruikshank Company.

Although Richie was not there for the opening (as some might suggest), as I think about it all today, he did have a connection to 90 West Street.

All the best in the world, Richie, from me––just some guy you met coming out of the ashes on a day we will never forget.

To learn why 90 West didn’t collapse on 9/11, click here.

Author: Tom Caska