What’s The Ad Space In Your Head Worth?
Thursday October 03rd 2013, 1:18 pm
Filed under: advertising,identity theft

Came across a “cheesy, seriously cheesy” but fascinating movie called “Hardwired.”

The premise is that – “only a few years from now” – corporations run and do everything, including a form of brain surgery only a marketer could love.

Here’s how it works: “Hope Industries” implants a computer in your brain that enables the company to show you holograms of advertisements for all kinds of products. A dude who no one else can see appears out of nowhere and pitches you on a new watch. A little girl shows up in your own living room (with that fuzzy appearance around the edges that all holograms seem to have in movies) and tries to sell you gum.

It’s a seemingly brilliant strategy hatched by a crazy scientist played by Val Kilmer who says things like, “Subject 373 could expose Project 660,” and “If they erase his hard drive, we’ll have to know how they hacked in. Prepare for surgery.” Ouch.

But I digress.

The point is that Hope has a plan to embed millions of these chips and then sell the “ad space in everyone’s heads for trillions of dollars.” The ad space in my head. Whoa. That’s like… totally deep.

If you’re in marketing, I would highly recommend this movie, if only for the opening credits. All the grand places in the universe have been branded: the moon has a Pepsi logo over it, the Hoover Dam is sponsored by McDonald’s, with a big “M” emblazoned on it… and don’t even ask me about the Washington Monument.



Stephanie Fierman Can’t Remember If You Said tv Or net
Friday April 10th 2009, 8:37 am
Filed under: identity theft,Internet

There’s a new proposal from ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) that could enable a virtual endless number of domain-name suffixes to be created over and above the already-familiar 18 including .org, .edu, .net and .com.

The idea is to enable businesses and others to create suffixes that are specific to their business or purpose, as opposed to the current generic “top-level” endings.  “Whatever is open to the imagination can be applied for,” says Paul Levins,” ICANN’s vice president of corporate affairs.  So if the Museum of Modern Art wanted to attract visitors to its permanent collection, it could conceivably create a URL ending in “.art.” 

Most experts agree that there are numerous issues with this new proposal.  The first and possibly most obvious one is… who’s going to keep track?  Could Mars use “.candy” while Hershey uses “.chocolate” and “kisses” and JellyBelly uses, well, “.jellybelly?”  The answer seems to be yes, and the possibility of chaos for marketers and consumers is obvious.

url.jpgSecondly, this proposal opens the door for scammers and squatters to purchase a brand’s name and simply invent multiple URLs to go with it.  This would not only mislead Web surfers, but could cause brand names to fall into the hands of those who wish to exploit them and possibly get money from the owner.  If your pet peeve is labor relations at Wal-Mart, you could purchase WalMart.unfair, Walmart.worksucks, WalMart.unions, WalMart.sickout.  There are no guidelines, at least not yet.

Third, who can own what?  Are all words in the common domain and therefore available for purchase?  The International Olympics Committee has already threatened to sue ICANN if the organization permits the purchase of the IOC’s trademarked and protected words.  And the Flemish government doesn’t seem happy, either.

2008 saw a record number of cybersquatting complaints from trademark holders as it is.

Fourth, what are the intricacies of the process?  Do I have to prove anything to purchase any URL I wish, how long can I keep it and must I meet some performance level to maintain ownership?  What happens if there are two potential buyers for a TLD - will there be a bidding war? 

Finally, ICANN proposes to charge an application fee is $185,000 plus an annual “continuance” fee of $25,000.  As the seller of services, what assurances of value and security will ICANN provide?  Is ICANN responsible for the protection of children who may wander onto a porn site at SpongeBob.fun? The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse estimates that it could cost big marketers up to $1.5 billion just to defend existing turf: what do these companies get in exchange for the millions of dollars they would suddenly have to pay to protect something that suddenly needs protecting?

ICANN is going to have to put some fencing up around proper names, brands, and protected words, but that won’t help the vast confusion that could result.  I suspect that larger commercial brands will settle into some industry-wide structures that try to minimize the information overload.  Because if you think spam is bad now…



Stephanie Fierman Is Downtown And It’s None Of Your Beeswax
Monday February 16th 2009, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Google,identity theft,web 2.0

Now that Google is laying off staff and its stock price is down, I have to wonder if perhaps it’s time to accept the fact that giving people scads of personal experimentation time may not be so, uh, productive. google-latitude-map-view-stephanie-fierman.jpg

First it was the company’s effort to keep us from the 21st century version of drunk dialing:  drunk e-mailing.  Cute. 

Now it’s Latitude, a program that allows users to track others with their mobile phones.  Each user must opt-in and can select which of her contacts may be permitted to track them.

I find this to be neither cute nor safe.  Anyone could get a hold of a user’s phone and change the settings, or a person could give a Latitude-enabled phone as a gift.  And once a phone is enabled, a second party could mask his own phone’s ID, thus ensuring that the first party – or victim, in this case – would be unaware that she was being tracked.

Google says that individuals’ increasing willingness to share personal information, on sites like Facebook, have encouraged the company to create services such as Latitude.

This doesn’t really fly.  My willingness to change my Facebook status to reflect that I’m enjoying a cup of coffee doesn’t extend to letting the universe know that that coffee house is on Lexington Avenue at 77th Street.  And how that location might change minute by minute.

It’s also a potential Big Brother nightmare.  Location data that may be useful to friends and family could also be valuable to the government, your competition, an angry ex or thieves happy to rob your home when you’re not around.  And while Google says it won’t store the data (having faced criticism on its privacy policies in the past), the government or others could still ask Google to help track someone being investigated.  “As it stands right now, Latitude could be a gift to stalkers, prying employers, jealous partners and obsessive friends,” says Simon Davies of Privacy International.

I see no clear need for this: it’s simply not a case where the existence of technology creates a unique and meaningful improvement or advantage.

I like Google, but its fundamental drawback is that it grants no status to honest or credible content.  Perhaps this is par for the search engine course – at least for now.  But products that overtly weaken personal rights and privileges?  That’s a slippery slope that I do not believe is worth the trip.



Is Stephanie Fierman Really Todd Davis? Are You?
Friday May 23rd 2008, 4:44 pm
Filed under: advertising,identity theft,Internet

Nine little digits: 457-55-5462.

When Todd Davis put his own Social Security number in his company’s print, online and tv ads, marketers thought he was either brilliant or crazy.

Crazily brilliant? Brilliantly crazy? Hmmm.

Todd’s company is Lifelock which, for about $10 a month, provides consumers with “a proven solution” that prevents its customers from becoming identity theft victims. So Todd’s advertising strategy was the penultimate “Eat your own dog food” tactic.

Today, Lifelock has over 1 million customers and Goldman Sachs recently led an investment round that scored the company $25 million. But when you wave a steak in front of a dog…

Turns out that Todd has been “hacked” more than a few times (out of more than 80 attempts, he says) and one guy in Texas succeeded in getting a $500 payday loan in Todd’s name using his SSN. Several class-action suits have now been filed, and multiple states are coming after the company, as well.

There are many, many instances where product demonstration is a great way to prove that something does what it says it’s going to do. Vacuum cleaners. Water filters. iPhones. Take a look at this one for Scott paper towels. “Uhhhh-mazing!”

The distinction, however, is that these are products whose excellence, or “proof of concept,” is solely in the manufacturers’ hands. Assuming the product does work, the only way a consumer could invalidate it is to use the product in an unintended way: a small girl trying to vacuum up her baby brother, for example.

But LifeLock is nearly the reverse. Lifelock cannot prove it works – only its customers can. That’s why Davis did what he did: become a customer. But when core functionality is somewhat subjective, can be disproven given enough tries and becomes something of a dare in the marketplace, tempting fate is likely to get you taken for a ride.