Michael Durwin

What Defines a TV Hit (to the networks)

Posted on July 31, 2008. Filed under: ABC, broadcast, MediaPost, Michael Durwin, NBC, Sci Fi Channel, tv ad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In a recent post on MediaPost’s TV Watch, entitled ‘Mad Men’ A Hit? Try  Whopping TWO Million Viewers, author Wayne Friedman discusses the success of AMC’s Mad Men. The drama, based on a 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising agency and it’s creative director (who makes me jealous with his afternoon scotch and big budgets) just premiered it’s season two opener to an audience of 2 million. Friedman compares the show to The Sopranos’ 13 million viewers and The Closer’s 8 million. He doesn’t discuss the ridiculous viewership of reality shows such as American Idol or Big Three programs such as Desperate Housewives, whose ratings I’m sure, eclipse those of Mad Men. His article wonders just what constitutes a success. In his mind this is a huge success, if only by AMC’s standards. I completely agree. However, there is anothr angle to be taken:

The kinds of ratings such as those for Sopranos and Desperate Housewives are going to be increasingly hard to come by. ONLY 2 million may seem small compared to the Sopranos or reality programming like American Idol, but, regardless of what network they’re on, the days of national hits or shows with global appeal (such as I Love Lucy and ER) are rapidly coming to a close.

While the networks may blame the Internet for declining viewership, which certainly plays a part, they’ve also done it to themselves. There is just too much niche programming. And that’s a good thing. A program with a more niche appeal makes for a more loyal, if smaller, audience. If you’re smart enough to target your ads appropriately to that audience, you’ll get better conversion. The Sci Fi Channel is a great example. While viewing the season opener for their original series Eureka, I found 50-75% of the ads were sci-fi themed.

Hopefully networks and advertisers are getting this and we won’t have to lose quality shows like Carnivale and Journeyman.

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Social Network: Users Not Welcome

Posted on July 21, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I’ve recently discovered that I will soon be a father. I was recently a husband and previous to that a fiancee. At the beginning of this category-changing trip, I, along with my fiancee, decided to sign up for theKnot.com. It’s a great site, we found alot of helpful info there from photographers, to the ceremony site, to etiquette hints. I signed up partly to help my wife plan and make announcements, see links, etc. and partly out of curiosity as a creative director that does quite a bit of social network strategy development.

Once married we found that we had graduated to a sister site called theNest.com. Having lived in sin for so many years, it wasn’t the helpful to us. When we found out recently that we were expecting, I thought of theNest and decided to see what they had about new families. I discovered that theNest had a section called theNestBaby, soon to be theBump.com. What a brilliant business plan, a social network for every major step in your life.

So I started using theNestBaby to post our due date and to see what we could be expecting. No offense to the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but it doesn’t have a search engine! Today I visited theNestBaby to find that theBump.com had launched. I clicked on the link and found myself on the new site. It hadn’t changed from it’s previous incarnation except for one thing: I was no longer logged in. Ah, cookies, gotta love ’em right? Wrong.

I wasn’t logged in, simple enough, I’d log back in. Hmm… I couldn’t remember my password, of course. So I typed in my email and went over to my account to get my password. Oh yeah, that’s right. Returning to the site, I typed in my email and password: Your account is not active. Huh? I tried it again, and again. Same thing. Crap. How could it not be active if they just sent me my password? Well, maybe they’re not porting over login info. Excvept that it clearly says “Already a member of theKnot or theNest? Log in using your existing membership information.” Interesting, but not helpful.

So now I have to login all over again, assuming that they f@#$d up and lost some of theNest’s user info. What a site registration is. Name, email, password, okay. Address required? Really? “Deals, Events, Inside Scoop” Yeah! So much for hoping on to check off something on our checklist:

My email is already in use. No shit. But it’s not active. WTF!?

How is that going to get users in? Not only have they already lost my users info, but now I have to wait until tomorrow night to do anything? This is a use case scenario that I talk to my clients about all the time. They want tons of info, they want to approve every entry, they want to tie registration to advertising, even if it’s in the form of a “reward”, usually a percentage discount if you buy with a specific advertiser.

So, my first trip into the daddy-to-be social network did not come out so well. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow night when I can sign in, unless I’ve already found the nursery furniture I wanted to see elsewhere, or found another site with a pregnancy checklist that doesn’t make me wait like I’m buying a handgun.

Well, in the meantime, I’m on to make next daddy-to-be adventure. I was thinking today that pregnancy often excludes soon to be fathers. We don’t get any attention, gifts, days off, and justifiably so. We’re not pushing a screaming bag of sugar out any of our orifices! I was trying to think of ways to still be involved, even helpfully so. A quick online search didn’t find too much. TheBump certainly didn’t have a section for fathers. So, I’ve decided to start a small site dedicated to helping fathers through pregnancy. I’ve bveen thinking of links content to include:

Links to helpful info
Recipes even a clumsy guy can easily make (I did bruchetta this evening and will post that recipe – 10 minutes!)
Smart home repairs to get out of the way
A forum for guys to ask advice dealing with cranky wives during the hot days of summe
Building baby furniture

Anything I can think of or that anyone wants to share is welcome. Reply to this blog, I’ll post a link to a new Ning site as soon as I have it set up.

Cheers, the wife is calling!

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Social Networks Show Users are Not Designers. And That’s Okay.

Posted on July 16, 2008. Filed under: blog, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, Facebook, Michael Durwin, MySpace, Social Network, Twitter, Web 2.0, WordPress |

I recently came across fellow Twitter-buddy Bokardo’s blog on designing for social networks:

Ugliness, Social Design, and the MySpace Lesson

Good points all around. An important thing to keep in mind is Form Follows Function. In other words, first it has to work, then it can be made to look pretty. Well, like it or not, MySpace works, despite the fact that it is not pretty. But pretty is a subjective term, while working is not. In order to work, in the realm of social networking and personalization, the user must be presented with the ability to make their site their own. That means supplying the function and letting them supply the form. If the MySpace example tells us anything it’s that most users have no taste! Any designer could tell you that! It takes skill, talent and education to know good design when you see it, much less create good design. If users were all capable of creating good design, we designers would be out of a job. MySpace decided that stopping at Function suited them just fine. With their user base and cash flow, who could argue with that?

Facebook, on the other hand, has taken a different point of view. They are providing the Function and 99% of the form. The only personalization there is your apps, your friends and your pictures.

Twitter and WordPress are in the middle. Twitter (who is obviously still working on their Function) allows a bit of form to be handled by their users, but not alot. Twitter allows users to add a picture as an icon and change their background and colors. Both merely complement the user interface. With WordPress, if you’re using their hosted version, you can choose from a variety of templates to change your layout, or you can design or have someone else design a WordPress template for you. This last is not easy for a layman, so it is often someone with design skills who does it. At worst, a WordPress design can be boring, but at least it’s not as hideous as what some MySpace users are doing.

So, allowing the Form portion of your social network’s user interface to fall into the hands of it’s users may not be pretty, but that’s what social networks are all about, What the User Wants. The user has become the designer, for better or worse, of their own experience. Who knows if this will be a continuing trend? Well, maybe we have a hint already. Users in droves have been flocking to Facebook over the last year or so, which offers much less freedom of expression, at least visually. What I’ve heard over and over from those that have abandoned MySpace for Facebook, besides that it’s for stalkers and spammers (thanks Big Media), is that Facebook looks better. Maybe users are smartening up, and realizing that they enjoy elegant design, maybe, with all the different aspects of their real and online lives, they are too busy to design their experience and prefer to have one handed to them.

We will see how it shakes out over the coming year.

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Twitter Spam. It Had to Happen Sooner or L8r.

Posted on July 12, 2008. Filed under: blog, Google, Michael Durwin, MySpace, Social Network, SXSW, User Generated Content, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , |

I was introduced to Twitter back on March of 2007. Everyone at SXSW jumped on it. I dropped it for awhile as only a few people I met at SXSW were using it. Since then a ton of folks have jumped on board. It’s become a very important part of my social media, technology and all around cool stuff networking. I use Twitter for a variety of things; to communicate with friends, to engage in discussions with others of similar interest, to find out what others are interested in, to share my interests or thoughts with others and to learn. This last one is key for me. There is so much going on in this web2.0 world that no one can stay on top of it all. Luckily, so many others are keeping up on it, collectively we can stay on top of it all, by searching, learning and sharing.

I don’t follow a huge amount of people, only those I’ve mentioned above, friends, acquaintances, and a few of the Twitteratti (big shots like Kevin Rose and Robert Scoble). I follow about 50 folks, and about 60 follow me. I’m always flattered when someone decides to follow me. After all, they must thing what I’m Twitting is interesting right? Recently I began to receive a few follows that got me curious. Usually someone uses a Twitter handle (mine is mdurwin, I use it everywhere, just Google it!), their name, nickname, combination of first and last name or initials, etc. I’ve seen very few Tweeps (or Tweople, or whatever us Twitter geeks come up with next) using first names and numbers, a common practice with AOL chat and other IM services.

Lately I’ve been getting follows from users with names like Valerie434, or Stella214. I just excepted them and moved on. Then, in one day, I received follows from Lisa1961, Tammy1961, Jessica1986, Angelina1986 and a few more. Twitter spam had caught up with me. Most of these users had a personal page with a link, most to bizrotator.com and a picture that looked like it was either stolen from a MySpace college girl or a Russian bride site.

So, it’s here, Twitter spam. Luckily the most they can do is follow you and hope you click on their link. Only if you follow them will you allow them to push anything on you. The lesson learned: you know it’s gone mainstream when spammers start using it. Here’s a complete list of my spam followers so far:

Valerie434
Jasmin534
Sarah717
Stella214
Bethann35
Lisa1961
Tammy1961
Rhonda1989
Jessica1986
Angelina1986
amymlmer
bethbaker

I’d love to hear from other Twitteratti on this. Is it just me?

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Successful Update of my iPhone Firmware and Playing Super Monkey Ball

Posted on July 11, 2008. Filed under: blog, Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I could go back months, where the history of the update began. That would be the announcement of Apps and games. But let’s just stick to the technical stuff shall we?

The story of the successful update of my Gen 1 iPhone began Thursday afternoon around 2pm. I was on Twitter as usual and someone (I believe Kevin Rose, but I could be wrong, my bad) mentioned that Apps were available on iTunes. I did a bit of digging and this was confirmed on MacRumors.com. By searching for a specific App (I used MacRumors suggestion of searching for AIM Application) I was able to access a sub menu and back out to the main Apps directory. I spent gleeful minutes perusing the selection; from the much-anticipated Super Monkey Ball (simply called Monkey Ballz around the office) to the eReader and iPhone Lightsaber. Many ranged in price from $.99 to $39.99 and many more were free. So, I thought, what happens when I try to download one?

iTunes would not allow a download without first updating the software to iTunes 7.7. I tried to update the software through it’s own software update menu to no avail. A little bit of research led me to a link for the download of iTunes 7.7. Once that had been downloaded to my office iMac, unpacked and installed, I was able to doenload any number of free Apps.

Unfortunately my iPhone is synched to my home machine (an ancient, 3-year old G5 dual). The first thing I did when I got home (actually second after I took the pooch out to piddle and poop) was to download iTunes 7.7. I followed the same procedure as in the office and downloaded all of the free Apps that piqued my interest. I also purchased (aaaaaaahhhhhhhh) Super Monkey Ball. I did encounter a few problems here. I couldn’t use my iTunes gift certificate so I opted for a credit card. After several trials and failures I found that it wouldn’t recognize my zip code as being in Brighton, MA where I live but worked fine for Boston. While technically Brighton, Brookline, and Allston (all within a 3 block radius of each other: yuppies, rockers and richies) are all part of greater Boston and my mail to my zip code using Boston still gets through, it is not the address my credit card company has on file. I anticipated this to throw another glitch, butto my releif it did not.

This takes us to about 8pm last night. I wrapped it up and joined my wife to watch So You Think You Can Dance (Joshua blew me away again).

(you can follow this next part as it happened on my Twitter, starting here)

First thing this morning, for me about 7:53 am, I blindly stumbled into my office and plugged in my iPhone. From then to about 10 after 8 I tried to upgrade the firmware, to no avail. Acting on a hunch, and the fact that MacRumors claimed the software was in fact live, I unplugged my soon-to-be happy device, closed iTunes and downloaded v7.7 AGAIN.

This time it took. With 7.7 installed it automatically found the new firmware update and proceeded to update my iPhone. 1 hour later to the minute it was done. At 8:12am I started the update, ran to the shower, got my lunch together, got dressed (for those visualizing, I actually dressed before getting my lunch together. I’m sure me nude fighting with Tupperware is not that attractive to many), and came back. To sit. And wait. For an hour.

I will admit that I have quite a few movies and songs on my iPhone. I’m a motion graphics artist among other things so I keep most of my better work on my phone, making it a handy, mobile portfolio. 23 movies and 390 songs later. 15 free and 1 paid App later. 121 images later. My iPhone update was complete. “Mark the time nurse, 09:12 am.”

While I was a little late for work (which I’m sure I’ll be staying to make up), the process was only mildly frustrating. I think back to getting the iPhone. I left work at noon, arrived at the mall at 1 and 5 hours and 15 minute later I had my iPhone. 10 minutes later, back home, I spent about 10 minutes setting it up for use and was out the door. While this process took less time, but more than it should, I feel bad for those waiting in line for hours with crashed systems and being told to go home. Where, by the way, new members of the iPhone Army STILL can’t set up their phones. Even some with Gen 1 iPhones have bricked Gen 1 phones and non-functioning new phones!

One of my designers took time off this morning to get his very first cell phone, an iPhone. We expected him back by noon. We’ve had some good laughs at the idea of Steve, in line for hours, being told that the system is down. Worse yet, finding that the store is sold out, as I heard from Twitter buddy Matt in San Francisco. It’s 2:54 here in Boston and Steve is not back. We’ve been discussing the possibilities:

A) He’s 5 people from the store, swearing non-stop, waiting for the machines to come back online

B) He was sent home to finish activation where he is
1) Swearing non-stop because he had to go home and is on his way into work anticipating the crap we’re going to give him.
2) Swearing non-stop because iTunes STILL won’t activate his new iPhone

C) Swearing non-stop because he’s been arrested for assaulting an Apple Store employee upon finding out that
1) The iPhone is sold out
2) iTunes won’t allow activation and he’s holding a $300 non-functioning piece of metal, plastic, and glass.

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Obama Picks Edwards as VP?

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: Michael Durwin | Tags: , , , |

I just got a note on Twitter that Barack Obama has chosen John Edwards as his running mate. I have nothing else to back it up but thought it worth posting on th eoff chance that it’s true and that Twitter beat Big Media to the punch.

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BMW Shoots Viral Piece, Does it Hit or Miss?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: advertising, blog, Boston, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, DVD, Facebook, iPhone, Michael Durwin, movies, MySpace, new media, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BMW movie The Ramp

Earlier this year BMW launched a viral video to promote the launch of it’s new model in the U.S. The video was released as a documentary following the stories of a small Bavarian town named Oberpfaffelbachen. The town’s citizens include a stunt driver, over zealous police chief, event promoter and mayor, trying to save the town from hard financial times. They devise a promotion in which they will launch a 300 horse power BMW 1 Series from a 454 meter (1486.5 feet) ramp from Bavaria, across the Atlantic to the U.S. The town has created an entire festival around the event called Rampenfest. Towns folk are turning their houses into gift shops, town managers are tearing down forests for parking. I won’t give away the ending, but obviously something goes wrong. Not as dramatically as I’d hoped unfortunately.

The quality of the video is excellent, the acting, direction and effects (as subtle as the ramp, as obvious as the teeth) as good as a movie. The video has been seen by millions which can give BMW the opportunity to claim a positive impact, especially considering that it was shot overseas and cost far less than a U.S. 30 second spot. Was it successful? It’s hard to say.

As with any viral, guerilla or virtual advertising, it is hard to judge success. Many still talk about the negative impact of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla stunt, requiring a payout of 2 million to the city of Boston to cover lawsuits and the cost of our crack bomb squad (who apparently can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a light brite!). The press loves to bring up the GM (Chevy) Yukon promotion run on YouTube. Many people made anti-SUV ads from the audio and video clips GM posted in the make-you-own commercial promotion. This brings us to what determines success.

The GM promotion was considered a failure because of the thousands of ads that were created that shed a positive light on the Yukon, there were a few that were negative. But, is that a bad thing? Most people learn by making mistakes or being told they’re wrong. Negative feedback is just as important, if not more important than positive feedback. How will you know how to improve your product unless people tell you what they DON’T like about it? GM learned that there are alot of people that consider their giant SUV bad for the environment and a gas guzzler. If this prompts them to make eco-friendly, gas-conscious improvements to their vehicles, is that a bad thing for the company or the consumer?

And let’s not forget that with the launch of the BMW campaign, the GM promotion was brought up as a failure again. Really? The Chevy Yukon is mentioned in the press for another car manufacturer’s promotion and that’s a bad thing? Sounds like free press to me. Even when a guerilla or viral campaign can’t be measured in sales or doesn’t have quite the immediate impact a company would hope, there is always the fact that it will continue to keep the brand in the public’s conscience for months and years to come.

Brand visibility is the best way to consider whether or not your viral or guerilla campaign is effective. You can’t often track sales back to a campaign like this or even sign-ups. You may get a solid number of visits to your microsite, but when visitors pull down your video, or assets, or talk about it in their blog, it can be difficult to track especially since those co-opted branding placements end up living for months out of your control.

So, how successful will the BMW campaign be? Well, they millions of viewers at the moment. Add on a few million views of the video once people (like me) download the clip to their iPod/iPhone and show it around, upload it to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or blog accounts, hundreds of discussions of it in marketing or news related blogs (where I found it) and then it’s recurring mention every time another automaker or major corporation does a viral or guerilla campaign and it sounds like a success to me.

But BMW knows this. They were arguably one of the first to use viral video not just as a tool to sell cars but a way to engage consumers with their brand, and to redefine their brand as cool. I still have a DVD copy of the BMW Movies from the promotion in 2001. The shorts were directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and featured Forest Whitakker, Madonna, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and others. It received rave reviews at Cannes, from the New York Times, and Time magazine. They very successfully hit their middle-age, married, 150k/yr target.

The new spot however, at least in the words of Marketing VP Jack Pitney, was, rather than target a demographic, to target a psychographic. While most companies want to stick to categorizing their demographics by generation, age and finances, BMW is smart enough to know that they can pull an 8 year old boy and an 58 year old woman into their brand halo just by virtue of the fact that they may share common interests, like flashy cars, or mockumentaries.

Despite my feeling that this viral video may be a bit long for most viewers (35 minutes), I’m fairly certain that the folks at BMW will be pleased with the outcome. And I’m happy to help them broadcast their brand (even though I drive the “other” german car)!

Links:
Official Film Site

BMW Films Wikipedia

BMW Films Site (no videos here)

BMW Film “Star” (you can find the rest of the films here as well)

Digg submission where I first found out about the promotion

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LinkedIn Down

Posted on June 18, 2008. Filed under: Boston, Browser incompatibility, Mac, Mashable, Michael Durwin, new media, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , |

LinkedIn is down. Another web2.0 error!

LinkedIn Down

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Facebook changes my password without permission

Posted on June 5, 2008. Filed under: blog, Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, User Generated Content, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I received the most annoying email today from Facebook. At first I thought it was some shady company just trying to steal my login info but when I tried to log into Facebook I found out it was legit:

Hey Michael,

We have reset your Facebook account password for security reasons. You will need to use the link provided in this email to create a new, secure password for your account. Do not use your old password. In the future, please make sure that when you log in to Facebook, you always log in from a legitimate Facebook page with the facebook.com domain. To reset your password, follow the link below:
[Link was here]
(If clicking on the link doesn’t work, try copying and pasting it into your browser.)

Please contact info@facebook.com with any questions.

Thanks,
The Facebook Team

Why on Earth would they do that? Out of nowhere. I’ve been using Facebook for awhile, it’s not like I just signed up and they didn’t like my password. I have a sneaking suspicion as to why.

I’ve recently been using HELLOtxt. It is a microblog system that allows me to type once, publish many. It allowed me to edit my Twitter, MySpace and Facebook status by typing one message and hitting submit. I just put up another message and both MySpace and Facebook failed.

I’ve reset my Facebook password and reset it for HELLOtxt as well. We’ll see how it works.

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Cease and Desist Received: No Portfolio Work Allowed

Posted on May 12, 2008. Filed under: Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , |

2 years ago I was hired by a video production house to create several animations for an infomercial for Kaballah Center International, Inc. Since they were completed I’ve been showing them off as part of my portfolio. In early March I decided to expand the reach of my portfolio by setting up the video hosting part of it on YouTube. Last Thursday I received a Cease and Desist letter from their law firm, Wolff & Samson P.C., demanding that I remove the videos as I was infringing on Kaballah’s copyright ownership.

Cease and Desist Letter Received from Kabbalah’s Lawyers

As far as I knew it was perfectly legal to expect fair use of any work-for-hire production to be used as part of an artist’s portfolio. My handy Graphic Artist Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines handbook said as much (11th edition, page 26, paragraph 7).

My first question is, am I correct? Do I, as a graphic artist, have the right to show work I’ve done for hire as part of my portfolio in order to promote my services and prove that I can do what I claim to be able to? What are the limits? Can I use a clip? Can I only use it on my site? Can I only use a screenshot? Can I even mention the client’s name? It’s going to be very difficult for visual artists to make a living if such restrictions are put on them.

Of course, because I was hired very loosely by the production company, there are no specifics in the contract I wrote up pertaining to this. I believe that unless specifically stated, that I am not allowed to show work as part of my portfolio, I have a reasonable expectation that fair use covers my right to use work I’ve done as part of my portfolio, and hence my self promotion.

My second question, which I’m sure is in limbo due to the explosion of social networks, is: can a social network such as YouTube (CGTalk, XPLSV.tv, Flickr, etc.) be considered an extension of an artists portfolio? The law firm has already contacted YouTube to ask that the videos be removed. I have also contacted YouTube to clarify what their stance is on this. In the meantime I’ve made the videos private, until such time as the matter is resolved.

I know there have been a great deal of lawsuits and C&D’s flying around as everyone tries to figure out how new Internet technologies and social behaviors emerge and how it effects intellectual property from movies, to music, to images. There are currently two bills in Congress that would make any image that is online available to anyone to do as they will with (use in an ad, copyright themselves) if a “reasonable” search has been made, but proven to be unsuccessful, of the owner.

It seems to me that perhaps lawyers have no problem pursuing cases that are on shaky ground due to the inability of laws to keep up with technology. After all, they get paid for their time and the worst case scenario is that they will get paid even if they are judged incorrect, but still can claim that they were diligent. Like any legal matter, the ultimate winner is the lawyer!

I’ll keep updating this entry until the issue is resolved. One way or the other I’m sure it’ll be helpful to other visual artists.

p.s. Although I was told that the work would be for an infomercial only, the full video has been shown in various presentation formats and currently resides on the home page of http://tv.kabbalah.com.

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