Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bright Lights Big City

In the city that never sleeps, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, flooded in a sea of yellow taxis and in between the hustle of bustle and world famous landmarks lies a city like no other, the city of New York! The city speaks a thousand words and symbolises an array of different meanings. It's buildings and people have countless stories to tell and it it inspires and excites me every time I visit.

Its been a while since my last post so I thought there would be no greater time than to use my trip to NYC for a spoon full of inspiration and make it the subject of my next post. 
Like most important American things (fries, hamburgers, shakes, pretzels) advertising in NYC comes in one size...XXL.Times Square is quite obviously the spectacle of New York advertising with billboards and digital screens standing tall and proud on almost every tower block and building. The volume and clutter of all the outdoor formats makes me wonder how advertisers can gain any standout at all. But then you see something like the Captain America Ad wrap around to the left and realise that the only limitation is your imagination.
Advertising formats in NY although pretty similar to London do showcase some subtle differences. The main one I noticed was the wrapping of ads around the corners of tower blocks and buildings like in the picture below:

Painted wall mural style ads were also quite popular offering an element of authenticity contradicting the bright lights and animated digital screens sweeping over Times Square.

Considering Americans were late adopters of smartphone technology compared to us Britons, I noticed QR codes  plastered absolutely everywhere on every imaginable ad format - from plastic shopping bags to sky high inaccessible billboards and even saw them filling the window spaces of tower block buildings (see right).

Although many would see advertising as polluting a city's skyline so to speak, I actually think that the advertising in New York beautifully forms part of the city landscape, adding to its iconic views.

My time in New York flew by but I managed to pack in a vast amount of sight seeing, gallery and museum browsing, cocktail sipping, bar hopping, shopping, beach strolling and roof top pool partying. Sad as it may seem, one of my highlights was bumping into none other than Gossip Girl's most recognised actor Ed Westwick who plays the heart throb entrepreneur Chuck Bass!

Like a star obsessed school-girl, meeting and chatting to Ed Westwick made the trip complete but if I were to choose a serious element it would be Alexander McQueen's exhibition 'Savage Beauty'. Not only were his fashion creations complete works of art, but the depth of inspiration and narrative behind each collection was beyond anything I could ever imagine. One quote in particular left with me as I exited the exhibition "You should demolish the rules but keep the tradition"
Perhaps when it comes to brainstorming for pitch ideas or when developing media plans for our campaigns we should reflect on McQueen's statement to help aid our creativity. After all, as I stated earlier, the only limit lies within our own imagination.

This blog has moved to www.laurarobinsonblog.com

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Virtual Role Playing - Real Life Rewards?

The online gaming industry dramatically exploded in the mid noughties with the introduction of MMORPGs (Massively multi player online role-playing games) such as World of Warcraft (WoW). The success of such game experiences correlates with the player's ability to be fully immersed in the content creation and control of the game thus turning a fantasy into virtual reality.
Role playing games have traditionally followed the same gaming formula or theme whereby players create their own avatar character and compete or fight against other online players in order to progress through the different levels. Some game elements also give players the option to build and create their own levels, which consequently means a prolonged game shelf life.

However the development of role playing games has seen them migrate to the domain of social media. For example social network Habbo recently discovered that their members were re-creating favourite TV programmes including ITV's dating game show 'Take Me Out'. More surprisingly teens were also actively running virtual stores including Tesco, McDonalds and Starbucks without any endorsement from the chains themselves.

I was intrigued by the popularity of social role playing amongst teens and wanted to find out why this gaming movement had become a trend amongst teens. Habbo stated the following reason behind the gaming behaviour:

"Social platforms like Habbo provide young people with an outlet to not only play but also to enact ambitions such as running your own Tesco’s store or McDonalds restaurant, where they take it in turns to play the roles of shop-assistant, customer, security guard and even shop-lifter"
You can read the full article here.

Social media has been criticised for being intrusive to people's private lives and is seen as an unsafe environment for teens who spend a huge proportion of their spare time on them. However one thing has to be said - social networks such as Habbo act as a life-simulator where teens can learn and practice a number of key developmental skills such as socialising, negotiating and communicating. In addition it allows teens to practice these interpersonal skills in an environment where they perceive the risk to be lower. For example the fear of embarrassment and lack of self confidence that many teens have may deter them from using the skills in real life situations.

In most real life situations, people are generally rewarded when the result of using negotiation and other interpersonal skills lead to success. Having mulled over this idea I began to question how brands could use this social role-playing trend to their advantage and came up with the following thought:
I wonder how long it will be before stores such as McDonalds/Starbucks etc start introducing points and prizes which can be redeemed in real-life stores for teens who generate the most virtual business in games such as Habbo. Rather than the number of friends you can get to like your page or asking people to check-in to places why not actually get them to generate virtual business in exchange for real-life rewards...now there's an interesting thought!

This blog has moved to www.laurarobinsonblog.com