Monthly Archives: October 2013

Alternative Passwords: Would You Give Your Right Arm?

New technology always brings about change––and fear. Often this fear relates to learning something new, losing privacy, or being left behind. Alternative passwords, however, have introduced something new. If something needs a body part in order to be unlocked, what does that mean for personal safety if the item is stolen from the user?

The iPhone 5S’s fingerprint recognition system for unlocking the phone brought to the masses a new fear of losing limbs. Unlocking your phone with a fingerprint instantly makes security more personal and secure, but what happens if someone tries to steal your phone? Does the thief have to take a finger as an extra souvenir?

The short answer is no, so go on without fear. The long answer is that Apple has thought this through. The 5S has RF (radio frequency) capacitive sensors built into it that only acknowledge a live finger using the layer of living skin under the surface of your fingerprint.

Hollywood films, however, depict body dismemberment all the time to grant someone access to a top security site. One of the most famous recent examples is the removal of an eye for a retina scan in The Avengers. The film takes into account the necessity of a living organism to complete the transaction––could it ever be a reality? Science fiction often influences technology that is being developed and points out what should be avoided.

If Apple has proven anything, it is that no one intends to put us in any sort of danger due to technology. With every innovation, we are being asked to invest more of our body and soul, which naturally leads to worrying about what happens if either body or soul needs to be compromised. For all its faults, we seem to be in safe hands with the technology industry, which thus far has kept our flesh and blood in mind. Anything to the contrary is an exception rather than the rule.

Author: Zack Smith


AdForum’s Top 5 Commercials for This Week

This week’s top five should be titled A Series of Unfortunate Crap. My general feeling from the spots this week is that they were phoned in. Literally. I genuinely think that someone pitched a general concept to the agency, they liked the idea, and then plugged in one of their clients’ brands to the concept. There is a serious disconnect between what we’re seeing and the tie-in at the end. Are we templatizing ideas now?

We begin with Pelephone’s ad “Zeppelins.” Twenty-six seconds of really intriguing visuals. Beautiful art direction and an interesting story line that pulls you in, making you ask, What is this all about? And then suddenly, “Wherever you land, you’ll get the best roaming rates.” This is a mobile plan ad? Seriously? You could literally plug in almost any product to this spot.

–       Wherever you land, you’ll get the most reward points for your Visa card.

–       Wherever you land, you’ll get the most out of your Expedia vacation.

–       Wherever you land…

I could go on, but it’d just make me more upset.

Then again, the melodrama of the Sunami and Hornbach ads pushes me over the edge. The Sunami ad in particular just kills me. For two minutes we follow this incredible story of an underappreciated woman and her escape from an oppressive husband. We love her! She’s a hero! If only more women had this sort of courage!…

To use Sunami laundry soap.

The Hornbach ad is a decent story. And yes, we understand the “And what will remain of you” tagline. It’s just a bit of a stretch for a hardware store. Leave a legacy by shopping at Hornbach. I don’t know. Just doesn’t add up to four.

The winner this week goes to Del Monte Fruit Cups––light-hearted, universal, and straightforward in its concept. We love the complex, but it’s just flat-out unecessary with this spot.

And Export Gold? You’re trying too hard.

As always, chime in and cast your vote. Until next time!

1. Pelephone – “Zeppelins” – ACW Grey


2. Export Gold – “Fire at the Old Well” – Colenso BBDO Auckland


3. Sunami – “Moving” – Kráneo *S,C,P,F…


4. Del Monte Fruit Cups – “If Spencer Can” – Blammo


5. Hornbach – “And What Will Remain of You” – HEIMAT Berlin

Hornbach “And what will remain of you?” from Source on Vimeo.

Author: Eric Swenson

The VanScavenger Hunt III Experience

Vanguard Direct’s culture is defined by the location of our headquarters in midtown Manhattan. We can see the Empire State Building from our windows and can often be found craving fresh bagels.

What better way to celebrate our location than by exploring it? On September 12, VGD continued one of its traditional celebrations with the third annual VanScavenger Hunt. For the hunt, Vanguardians are given several clues pointing them to various locations around NYC. The first team to decode the cryptic clues and return to our 519 Eighth Avenue office is declared the winner and receives prizes and, more important, bragging rights until the next hunt.

This VGD tradition was started by Mark Dion, a Creative Director in our creative services department. Mark can also be found planning Halloween parties, apple-bobbing contests, and other VGD shenanigans. This year, in cahoots with VGD’s social media committee, Mark gave the VanScavenger Hunt III a new a twist: each team had to tweet a group photo at each location in order to win the game. Each team was required to have a team tweeter, and a few sessions were held to teach all tweeters to be successful.

So on September 12, thirteen teams of Vanguardians set out in a race. It started with each player holding a fifth of a puzzle that, when solved, created a QR code leading to five out of six clues for the hunt, with one clue remaining a mystery. Unbeknownst to the teams, the theme of this hunt was “The Smallest of NYC,” so hunters were sent to the smallest street, museum, park, piece of property, and freestanding building in the city.

The smallest freestanding building is a tiny locksmith’s shop with 10,000 keys embedded into its facade and was the location for the last mystery clue. In addition to the puzzle pieces, each team had to carry a locked box on their travels. At the locksmith, they were met by the keymasters, Vanguard Direct CEO Bob O’Connell and Director of Marketing Paul Wry. Each team then had to fish out a key from a box of twelve other keys in order to be directed to Ralph Bunche Park (near the United Nations headquarters), where they found our COO, Ralph Fucci. Ralph then directed the teams to the last location in front of U Thant Island, the smallest island visible from the east side of Manhattan.

Back at VGD headquarters, the Game Geeks were sitting in the “control room“ monitoring the game live on Twitter using the hunt hash tag #vgdhunt. They were able to communicate with each “team tweeter” and congratulate the winners as they walked through the door. After about three hours of hunting, all Vanguardians returned to home base. The hunt was fun, and Twitter was embraced––a successful day on all fronts.

To see the whole story unfold, check out #vgdhunt on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. If you want a bonus, check out the top three teams in the infographics below!


Author: Natacha Arora

Look, Mom––No Batteries!

It has happened to all of us: the cell phone battery dies in the middle of that important call or the flashlight flickers out as soon as the lights do. Batteries are one of those necessary evils we cannot do without. The use of a technology called ambient backscatter has the potential to alleviate some of the hassle by repurposing wireless signals that are already floating around. The signals would serve their primary communication function while also acting as a source of battery power. For a consumer, this eliminates those dropped calls and fights with tangled cords and wrong-sized chargers.

From a business perspective, the lack of those cords and chargers may very well be a reason to make sure this kind of product never comes to market. While the device may be the primary product, companies rely on accessories such as cords, batteries, and cases for a solid chunk of revenue used to offset the costs of the product. If a company feels its interests are threatened by new technology, it might find ways to stall or even completely destroy its production. A well-known example of this is illustrated in Who Killed the Electric Car, a documentary in which large players in the automobile and oil industries used political forces to destroy a functional electric car in the early 90s.

This brings up an interesting question about where the primary allegiance of a company should lie. There is a school of thought that says a company’s first priority is to serve the stakeholders who have a vested interest in its success. The flip side to that would be that a company is obligated to use its knowledge and expertise to provide the most beneficial product possible to its customers.

If and when ambient backscatter is ready for consumers, it will be interesting to see which route companies choose.

Author: Natacha Arora

See #VGDinthewild

If you live in New York City, you may not realize how many times a day you come across Vanguard Direct’s work while you are out and about. We are there in the morning on your subway commute, when you go to a picnic in a New York City park, and there when you sit in front of your TV to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. In the coming months, every Tuesday we will be sharing #vgdinthewild with you so you can see what we do––everywhere and for everyone––and enjoy a “ Hey, that’s VGD!” moment of your own.

Check out the photos on our Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts. Below are a couple of images from the campaign so you can get caught up right away!

Author: Natacha Arora

True Life: Andrea Moglia

Inside the Office:

Andrea Moglia is Vanguard Direct’s controller. For nearly four years, Andrea has overseen all finance and accounting operations. With around ten people in her department alone, Andrea manages everything from billing and receiving to accounts payable and inventory.

As a self-proclaimed math nerd, Andrea revels in the opportunity to work as a controller. “Every day is different. One day I’ll be working with sales, the next I’m setting up a new customer, and the day after that I’m reviewing invoices for payment.” More than anything else, however, Andrea is responsible for the month-to-date and year-to-date finance statements. These valuable pieces of paper give an insider’s view of Vanguard’s revenue, cost of goods and operating expenses, and gross profit.

Outside the Office:

If numbers are boring to you, Andrea’s personal life is far more intriguing. When it comes to nightlife, and in particular the restaurant scene, there isn’t a Vanguardian who knows more places than Ms. Moglia. As a daughter of Italian immigrants, food is in her blood. She makes it a point to check out every Michelin star–rated restaurant and is consistently “in the know” when a celebrity chef opens the newest hot spot. Be sure to ask for a recommendation—she’ll probably come back to you with a whole list.

And it doesn’t stop there. Andrea’s other culinary love is pastries. She once saw a cake on the cover of Martha Stewart’s magazine and decided right then and there to make it. She hasn’t stopped baking since. “It’s therapeutic! I love the challenge. And the fact that baking is a science of appropriate numbers—it lines up with my skill set.” And skills are exactly what she has. She’s taken a thirteen-week program at the Institute of Culinary Education and has catered well over twenty parties. She’s also traveled to every continent except Asia and attributes a lot of her culinary passion to the influences of those countries. Cookies are her specialty; I encourage you to make friends.

Favorite Vanguard Moment:

When you come from a family as large as Andrea’s (she has 20 first cousins), it’s pretty easy to get a little competitive. Just this summer her family hosted an adult “Field Day” in which six teams competed in eight activities that included tug-of-war, a three-legged race, and beer pong. It’s no surprise then that one of Andrea’s favorite moments was this summer’s victory at the Vanguard Scavenger Hunt.

“I’d call it a redemption story,” she said. “After a frustrating loss two years ago (in which, well, some of the clues weren’t 100% accurate), I—I mean, we—needed to dominate.” And dominate she—I mean, they—did. They came in ahead of the second place team by an hour! She may like her sweets, but the sweet taste of victory is what really really drives her.

Long story short, whether it’s playing at her best, baking at her best, eating at the best, or working at her best, Andrea will not be stopped.

Author: Eric Swenson

Facebook Terms of Service Update Implications

About a month ago, Facebook changed its privacy policy again, this time regarding storage of your profile picture and how Facebook intends to use your profile information. If you want a quick read, you can stop at the end of the next sentence. Facebook wants to use everything you post on your profile, so stop worrying about it or stop using the social channel.

For those of you who are still reading, these changes came about as a result of the recent settlement of a 2011 lawsuit brought by a group of Facebook users regarding the legality of sponsored posts and Facebook’s infringement of privacy. The argument was that Facebook did not exclusively detail how user information was being used and that sponsored posts were a misleading title for what they really were: targeted ads.

As part of the settlement, Facebook must explicitly state what it uses your information for in reference to its ads. This information includes “likes,” interactions with advertisers, keywords from posts––all of which advertisers use to show us specifically targeted ads. At the end of the day, it’s a very direct way of telling you what you should already know: When you sign up for Facebook, you become the product.

The second update is the expansion of Facebook’s facial recognition technology for a user’s profile picture. This was touted as a way to make tagging friends easier. Users, however, usually have just themselves in these profile images. This may suggest that profile pictures are going to be further integrated into Facebook’s advertising, either through using a user’s familiar face to recommend services to his or her friend or recognizing locations and products in a user’s profile picture and offering ads targeted to those surroundings.

Will the new updates be earth-shattering to users? Most likely not. But it’s another stepping stone to Facebook’s ultimate goal of being the most personalized advertising vehicle in existence, made possible by its users. And all it takes is a little bit of your data.

Author: Zack Smith