sábado, 30 de junio de 2012

Tagstand Hits 1M Actions, Launches New Tag Writer To Bring NFC To The Mainstream

Google is making a serious push with NFC on Android. As we detailed last night, Android product management director Hugo Barra revealed yesterday that Google is now shipping 1 million NFC-equipped devices every week. Beyond Google Wallet, the company announced some cool new features to Android Beam at I/O on Wednesday, including giving users the option to share video through NFC or pair their phones to other NFC-enabled devices just by tapping it.

Last night, Google showcased Beam's new functionality with two apps, Paper Camera and Tagstand's Task Launcher. Y Combinator-backed Tagstand, in particular, has been on a mission to make NFC more of a mainstream technology and is starting to pick up steam as a result.

Tagstand co-founder Kulveer Taggar tells us that the startup saw a big jump in demand when the NFC-equipped Galaxy Nexus hit stores, so they rebuilt Task Launcher to include a bunch of new features — and a new interface — in March. Sales picked up almost immediately, and they went on to sell as many tags in March as they did during the entire month of June 2011 (when the app launched).

Since then, the growth has continued. Just a few days ago, Task Launcher passed a significant milestone: One million actions executed. To break that down, of the 1 million actions executed, users changed WiFi and Bluetooth settings 300,000 times, 176,000 applications were launched, phones were set to silent or vibrate 150,000 times, 12,000 songs were played, 10,000 alarms were set, and mobile hotspots were set up 8,000 times.

Initially, the app was offered on Google Play for $2, but earlier this week, Tagstand began offering the app for free to further accelerate growth, and which Taggar says has resulted in a 5-fold increase in the number of daily installs.

As for some background, in case all of those aforementioned actions confuse, Task Launcher lets users create and use NFC tags to automate tasks you perform in everyday life. Swipe your NFC-equipped phone near one of those tags and your phone will perform specific actions or reconfigure to particular settings once swiped.

Using Task Launcher, users can turn on Bluetooth with a swipe of their phone, for example, or turn off WiFi and call up their favorite music app when they scan a tag placed in their car — or even set their phone's ringer to vibrate, dim the display and set an alarm once they've placed their phone on their night stand.

The possibilities for this kind of technology are many, so to demonstrate how it could work in the real world, Tagstand has been partnering with events, like one that Sarah covered in May. Attendees were given some digital goodie bags when they arrived at the event, including an NFC-enabled wristband.

As Sarah wrote, these bands allowed guests to "link up their NFC bracelet with their Facebook and Twitter accounts, enabling them to automatically upload the pictures they take at the party's web-connected photo booths, they can tap to check in on Facebook Places, and they can tweet by tapping on the Library walls – all magically enabled via NFC."

Taggar tells us that the bands amplified the event's social engagement to 187K Facebook friends and 32K twitter followers, with 20 percent of the people with wristbands tweeting and 80 percent posting to Facebook during the event using NFC, turning the event organizers into happy campers.

Finding success at this event (and several since), Tagstand has since been developing another app, with which it aims to streamline the process of programming NFC tags for everyday users. While there's a great tag-writing app by NXP already in Google Play, TagWriter doesn't allow users to do bulk programming.

So, Taggar tells us that the team made that one of the key features of its new app — NFC Writer — to let users program multiple tags at once, rather than just one at a time.

The other key feature, the co-founder says, is its social focus, which makes it easy for users to create NFC-enabled Foursquare tags, for example. (And soon, Facebook tags.)

As a whole, if 9To5Mac is correct and the iPhone 5 launches later this year sporting an NFC chip and an antenna, the technology's penetration is going to accelerate significantly.

As mentioned, Samsung already has several NFC-enabled phones, including the Galaxy S II and III and the Galaxy Nexus, but they hadn't done much to put NFC to use. (The reason they introduced TecTiles, NFC stickers, earlier this month.)

So the apps being created by Tagstand (and JFDP Labs' Paper Camera) give users the opportunity to have some geeky fun with their NFC phones and start making the most out of the technology.

For more, find Tagstand at home here.

When is the best time to run social campaigns and sell online?

Posted 26 June 2012 13:15pm by David Moth with 3 comments

Poorly timed social media and email campaigns mean that retailers are failing to maximise user engagement, according to a study by Yesmail.

The report looked at campaigns run by major retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Diesel, Gap and Ralph Lauren, over a three-month period.

It found that "many social media and email campaigns do not match up with consumers' patterns for when and how they engage with brands".

As a general rule, Facebook campaigns achieve the highest level of engagement on Tuesdays, yet that day ranks fourth in terms of when actual campaigns are deployed.

The majority of Twitter campaigns take place on Friday, which is the least engaging day for those campaigns. Also, most interaction on YouTube occurs on Monday, but it is the least utilised weekday for campaign deployment.

The best times to run campaigns

Yesmail also found a discrepancy between the best time of day to run Twitter campaigns and the time that they were actually deployed.

More than 84% of Twitter campaigns occurred within regular work hours of 9am to 7pm EST, though consumer engagement is actually at its highest early in the morning (5am to 8am).

Similarly, Facebook campaigns reached the highest level of interaction between 10pm and midnight EST, but the most popular time to deploy campaigns was 11am to 1pm EST.

However, although engagement is higher late at night, it doesn't necessarily mean that consumers won't become aware of a campaign simply because it is launched earlier in the day.

The viral nature of Facebook and Twitter campaigns means that a well executed campaign will build engagement throughout the day as more people become aware of it and share it with their friends.

How does email impact social campaigns?

The report found that email messages sent out prior to a social campaign can help increase user engagement via share buttons and calls to action.

On Facebook, engagement grew by roughly 50% when one email campaign was deployed on the same day and by 100% when two email campaigns were deployed.

Twitter campaign engagement levels reached a 35% increase with one email campaign and a 50% increase with two.

This certainly suggests that brands can increase social engagement through email messaging, but will it work long-term?

If brands are consistently sending out two emails on the same day they launch a social campaign, then there is a chance users will soon come to see it as spam.

The best time to sell online

As consumers, we all know that we are more likely to make a purchase on payday then at the end of the month. A separate report from QuBit has found statistical evidence to support this fact, showing that Wednesday mornings in the first week of any month are the best time to be an online retailer.

The insight was generated from more than 350,000 customers using the company's Exit Feedback tool, which gathers live responses from consumers about their online shopping experience.

It found that customers were typically at their most price sensitive on Sunday evenings at 11pm, and on the 24th day of the month – coincidentally, a combination of factors that only occurs in June this year.

Customers were at their least price sensitive on Wednesday mornings at the start of the month, suggesting that this is the ideal time for retailers to push full-priced products.

It could also be a good time for brands to launch social campaigns around new product ranges or offers on old stock.

QuBit's research also found trends in consumer price sensitivity, and therefore propensity to purchase.

Consumers are comparatively 14.5% more price sensitive on the weekend compared with weekdays and in general are almost 10% less price sensitive in the days after pay day that they are in the rest of the month.

Fashion-Focused Blog Aggregator Bloglovin Raises $1M From Betaworks And Others

Bloglovin, a startup that has been compared to Tumblr and RSS, has just raised a $1 million Series A.

The company bills itself as a fun, simple way to follow all the fashion blogs that interest you. Like RSS, you can sign up to read updates from any blog (not just the ones on a single platform or content management system), and like Tumblr, there's an emphasis on high-quality visuals and community. Bloglovin even held a fashion awards ceremony in New York earlier this year.

I first spoke to the Bloglovin team about a month ago, shortly after New York City-based incubator and early-stage investor betaworks had bought some secondary shares in the company from a seed investor. At the time, betaworks CEO John Borthwick sounded particularly excited about the startup's numbers. It has about 1.5 million registered users, and more impressively, its ratio of daily active users to monthly active users is 50 percent. Put another way — people who use the site must love it, because they come back a lot. The average Bloglovin user also follows 37 blogs.

The Series A is betaworks' first direct investment in the company. Other investors in the round include:

  • Lerer Ventures
  • RRE Ventures
  • Hank P. Vigil & Fritz Lanman
  • Eric Martineau-Fortin
  • Rob Wiesenthal
  • Jill Greenthal
  • Kinnevik

Bloglovin CEO and co-founder Mattias Swenson says his next big target is mobile. He notes that even blogs with a tech-savvy readership rarely see more than 10 percent of their traffic come from mobile — compared to social sites like Facebook and Twitter, where mobile usage is more like 50 percent. Bloglovin has already released a smartphone app, but Swenson says, "We're not really proud of it." He's planning to launch a new iPhone app at the end of July, with the aim of presenting one of the first blog reading experiences that looks really great on a smartphone. The company plans to release iPad and Android apps further down the road.

In addition to mobile, Swenson says he's looking to add more social features. After all, he says his girlfriend, a fashion blogger, has hundreds of thousands of monthly readers, but "she doesn't know any of them — they're just numbers in Google Analytics." That's why Swenson wants to "bring the social fabric to the blogosphere."

And if that's not enough, the company also wants to release localized versions in key international markets like Japan. After all, when you're featuring such visually-driven content, it can appeal to readers who aren't native speakers of a given language.

Bloglovin' helps people discover and follow their favorite blogs. Today bloglovin' has over 1,5 million members, 70% of them follow fashion blogs and over 90% of the members are female.

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betaworks believes in the power of the real-time social web. We believe that the popularity of the real-time and social aspects of the web represent a radical shift in how people use and interact with the Internet. The future is about dynamic streams of information, not static pages. It's about push, not pull; it's about enabling publishing tools and data; and it's about the ways we touch, experience and interact with the Internet and each other. With this...

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Lerer Ventures is a New York-based, seed stage venture capital fund run by Ken and Ben Lerer. LV invests in founders in the earliest stages of a startup's life, seeking out those entrepreneurs with product vision, consumer insight, focused execution, and unwavering ambition. Its portfolio includes betaworks, chartbeat, Canvas Networks, Simple (formerly BankSimple), gdgt, GroupMe, Greplin, and Venmo.

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Since its founding in 1994, RRE Ventures has been dedicated to helping talented management teams build industry-leading companies. Today we manage $850 million in assets dedicated to investing in private information technology companies. We focus on rapidly growing markets in the software, communications, and financial services industries. We back entrepreneurs and management teams that possess the industry knowledge, vision, and discipline to create market-dominating companies. Our team brings a unique combination of management, operations, and investment expertise, as well...

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Alexia’s Headphones: How We Used CrowdTilt’s Group-Funding Platform To Replace Stolen Property

On the 25th of June, our dearest Alexia Tsotsis had an incredibly rough day.

First, her car was looted by very bad people in San Francisco, who stole her laptop and a pair of excellent Bose headphones that were near and dear to her heart. And as if that wasn't enough, her car then got smashed by someone running a red light, totaling her vehicle and leaving her in quite a bit of pain.

When fellow TechCrunch sharks heard the news, we knew we had to do something to help out one of our fearless leaders, and so our very own Ryan Lawler stepped up to the plate with a suggestion to buy some new headphones for Alexia. "Knowing that we can't replace the sentimental value, I was thinking we could maybe (at least) help replace the item that was taken."

After a little back and forth, the team settled on an app to help us accomplish the task at hand (we at TC need an app for everything), and that's where CrowdTilt enters the mix.

CrowdTilt is an online platform that allows anyone to start a group-funding campaign, which is different from crowd-funding. According to CrowdTilt, group-funding is where a group of people give money to fund an objective where the entire group benefits, whereas crowd-funding lets the general public fund an individual's goal or objective.

There are a few small caveats to the service, including a required Facebook login for campaign starters and U.S.-only availability at the moment. For Ryan, our own campaign starter, signing up with Facebook is no big deal. We're hyper-connected.

But for someone who doesn't want to access third-party apps through Facebook (and there are quite a few people like this in the world), this may be a road block. CrowdTilt explains on its FAQ that the Facebook log-in for campaign starters is meant to make other contributors aware of who they're giving money to, which is noble for sure, but not always convenient for the campaign starter.

Another issue we had was the lack of international availability. Sure, every startup needs time to scale, but our poor Ingrid Lunden and Mike Butcher had to contribute via PayPal, as their UK billing addresses weren't accepted.

If your eye can spy in the image below, founder James Beshara joined us to make his own contribution to the campaign. He was also nice enough to manually close the campaign for us when Facebook Connect was acting up on Wednesday. So Alexia, when you sit down to write everyone a thank you card (likely with another app), make sure to include James.

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Alexia Tsotsis is the co-editor of TechCrunch. She attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, majoring in Writing and Art, and moved to New York City shortly after graduation to work in the Media industry. After four years of living in New York and attending courses at New York University, she returned to Los Angeles in order to continue her career in new media, first as LA Weekly's Internet culture reporter, and then as SF Weekly's...

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Bose Corporation develops sound solutions for entertainment, home audio, aviation, and automotive industries in the United States and internationally. The company also provides professional sound systems for auditoriums, hotels, performance centers, places of worship, restaurants, retail businesses, schools, stadiums, and other venues; loudspeakers, controllers, and accessories for the stage; and automotive sound systems for sports cars, sedans, SUVs, trucks, and compacts. In addition, it offers Wave systems and accessories for home/office, larger rooms/outdoors, music from computer, and radio listening...

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Crowdtilt allows users to pool funds for objectives in a simple, social, and frictionless way online.

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By popular request: Nokia N86 takes on the 808

It's no test of these phone cameras if I shoot photos in sunlight - both the N86 and 808 claim to specialise in challenging light conditions, so why not test them as such? The N86 has variable aperture and can go down to F2.4, which is wide for the day (2009), plus a big 1/2.3" sensor, while the 808 famously has an enormous sensor, at 1/1.2", plus it's fixed at F2.4, so should be even better.

In each case, as requested, I used the 808's '8MP PureView' mode throughout.

Test 1: Moon in dusk sky

Let's start with the most challenging task of all, picking details out on the moon in a flawless dusk sky. The N86 was put in 'landscape' mode - the 808 had to be focussed on the most distant part of the treeline (I wasn't confident even the 808 could focus on the moon!!). I then cropped in so you can see the difference. In each case, the N86's photo crop is on top, the 808's on the bottom:

N86 vs 808 PureView

Quite a difference. Although there's little more actual usable detail, the difference in sensor noise is massive. Remember that the purity of the 808's image is not down to noise-reduction in software on a snapped image - the noise reduction comes at the very lowest level as part of the PureView oversampling on the 41 megapixel sensor.

In contrast, the N86's sensor noise and sharpening algorithms are very much evident. This one test crop speaks volumes and sets the tone for the rest of this comparison. Much as I love the N86, it's simply outclassed here once you look closely, with one exception (which I'll leave to last).

Test 2: TV Aerial and roofline

A nice opportunity to pick out detail on something around 10 metres away, in this case a TV aerial and roofline of the neighbouring house, in the setting sun. As before, the N86's photo crop is on top, the 808's on the bottom:

N86 vs 808 PureView

It's true that there's a warmth in the N86's photo crop, but other than the colour temperature there's simply no comparison. Look at any detail and you'll see a natural look to the 808 photo's lines and a noisy, over-processed look to the N86's photo. Remember that this was right before sunset and light levels were low - the 808 did amazingly well to still produce noise-free blocks of white on the soffit and fascia. Plus the aerial wires look utterly real in the crop below.

Test 3: Horizon

What about looking to where there's most light, right on the horizon in front of the setting sun? As before, the N86's photo crop is on top, the 808's on the bottom:

N86 vs 808 PureView

I've cropped in quite a lot here, as you can see. The N86's post-processing is really quite ugly - snapping things so far away really isn't its speciality. In contrast the 808's photo only has marginally more detail but is far more natural. And I suspect that if I'd used a tripod to keep the 808 rock solid then I could have produced even sharper results.

Test 4: Low light flower

Nestling in the dusk was a flower, which I tried snapping despite the low light levels. As before, the N86's photo crop is on top, the 808's on the bottom:

N86 vs 808 PureView

Now we're back in the N86's comfort zone - it really does seem optimised for close-up photography, some of my very best flower photos have been on the N86, which handles extremes of light well and which allows incredibly precise focussing. Even the sharpening only serves to enhance the detail on the plant. In contrast, the Nokia 808 PureView over compensates in terms of exposure and the petals are shown as whiter than they really were. I'm confident that with a little tweaking I could have managed a better match with reality and, ultimately, a better photo on the 808, but for now, I'll hand this round to the N86.


The N86 has its place in Nokia's string of camera-specialist smartphones, slotting in between the N82 and N8 and somewhat diminished by not having a Xenon flash. It tried to make up for this with the variable aperture and larger sensor, but ultimately I think Nokia made a mistake by applying too much sharpening, as was popular in the industry (and still is in other manufacturer's products).

For the N8, Nokia famously went down the line of showing the photo as it was, completely naturally. The risk was that casual perusal would see the photo as 'less crisp', but having a fully natural photo meant that small details weren't obscured by purely digital processing artefacts, so you could so more in terms of cropping the images later and still getting good results. The 808 keeps the same philosophy, producing utterly natural as-is photos. Leaving it up to the user to apply sharpening later on if needed.

Obviously, I'd place the 808 as a better camera phone than the N86 overall, but the latter does still manage credit for producing instantly satisfying close-up photos.

Purely for amusement and reader interest, I also thought I'd put scores to the stills cameras in a range of smartphones that I've tried. Just for fun, note, the list isn't definitive, please don't start a comment war over the numbers!

  1. 90% - Nokia 808 PureView
  2. 82% - Nokia N8
  3. 73% - Apple iPhone 4S
  4. 71% - HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S II, III
  5. 67% - Nokia N82
  6. 66% - Nokia N86
  7. 60% - Nokia N95/N96/N97
  8. 57% - Motorola Milestone XT720
  9. 55% - Apple iPhone 4
  10. 54% - Nokia N93

How to make video advertising that delivers

Posted 29 June 2012 15:16pm by Martin Forbes with 0 comments

As video ad consumption soars, so do marketers' video budgets.

There are more than 785m visits to online video websites in the UK each month. Spending on online video advertising in the UK hit 109m in 2011, more than double the previous year.

And the mind-blowing numbers keep coming – comScore's May estimates for U.S. video views topped 10 billion for the very first time.

But when will the digital ad industry rise to the challenge?

Right now, brands that want to capture online audiences have few options and the benefits from pursuing them are limited. For the most part, video-ad targeting remains primitive, the resulting metrics are inadequate and brand safety is rarely assured. Marketers often fail to look beyond pre- and mid-roll, which bring their own constraints, and consumers barely even register on most brands' lists of strategic priorities.

If we as an industry want to create video advertising that truly delivers on its promise – bringing together the best of television and digital to engage consumers in entirely new ways – we need to shift gears, and soon.

We must not focus simply on basic execution issues like placement, positioning and pricing. We also need to improve on the targeting, accountability and brand safety fronts. Finally, we need to consider the consumer in a new, more thoughtful way.

Smarter targeting

First, we need to help the brands and agencies we support reach the audiences they need. Display brand advertising works best when it's contextually relevant to the content of a page, and the same goes for video advertising. Until we can offer video ad targeting that leverages the full breadth of digital data and its environment, we're selling ourselves short.

Reconsidering ROI

Brands and their agencies love digital for the belief that they can track all aspects of performance; with online advertising we can measure to our hearts' content. However with pre-roll – the lion's share of video advertising – the numbers we get are typically completion rates and CTRs, confusing and often contradictory measurements that reveal nothing about ad effectiveness or user engagement.

We should be able to tell advertisers how long a user was engaged (not because they were forced to!) watching a video, what they did afterwards, whether they shared the ad and what the impact was.

The scale vs. quality dilemma

To look at those soaring video-consumption numbers, you'd think quality inventory was bottomless. On the contrary: One reason video might well continue to lag behind television is the impossibility of competing with the latter's scale.

With video, brands face a difficult decision: Should we go for reach and compromise quality, or sacrifice scale to protect our brand? Until now, there's been lots of demand for premium video advertising, but not enough premium content to fulfill the requirement of pre- and mid-roll execution.

For video to realise its potential, the industry needs to make a more concerted effort to respond to the needs of agencies and marketers, either by looking to new channels for content or by thinking more broadly about how to reach audiences in the right environment with video.

In part, this is about analytics keeping pace with technology. For example, until reporting agencies like comScore broaden their definition of "video network" – which still dates to the era of embedded video players – to accommodate new delivery platforms, agencies and advertisers won't understand the full range of solutions at their disposal.

Putting consumers in the picture

Finally and most importantly, the industry needs to pivot 180 degrees to put user experience at the center of every video campaign. With our consumer hats on, we need to consider the "value exchange" of video advertising. Brands need to look closely at what they offer users in return for their time and attention. And they need to think anew about what people want, to create advertising in the interest of the consumer.

In our recent Dynamic Logic study, we looked at how the user experience of a video ad impacts brand engagement. There were 500 participants involved and the key findings were that, first, the ability to both choose and control the online video experience matters to users; and second, personally relevant ads aligned to content are more likely to engage and hold a user's attention.

Specifically, 81 percent of survey respondents reported that they prefer advertising they can initiate on their own. Seventy-two percent appreciated being able to start and stop an ad on their own. And 62 percent said video ads that were relevant to the content on their page left them with a more favorable brand impression.

The sooner that we as an industry can prioritise these four issues, the sooner we'll arrive at a video solution that delivers great results for brands, publishers and – most importantly – consumers.

Custom Menswear Etailer Indochino Sets Its Sights Offline

The Spark of Genius Series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. Each post highlights a unique feature of a startup. If you'd like your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Indochino

Quick Pitch: Made-to-measure menswear ordered online.

Genius Idea: Takes less than 30 minutes, no appointment necessary.

It was 2006 and Heikal Gani was in need of a suit. Gani, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, exhausted the inventories of offline and online retailers, eventually settling for what he describes as a "generic, off-the-rack garment" that required "extensive and expensive" tailoring.

This experience was the genesis for Indochino, which began selling made-to-measure suits online in the spring of 2007. Gani and his company have since added shirts — its fastest-growing category — as well as blazers, coats, pants and accessories (ties, belts, cufflinks, pocket squares, etc.) to its catalog of offerings. Approximately 55 people are employed at its two offices in Vancouver and Shanghai. Orders have been shipped to more than 60 countries.

The ordering process, I now know from personal experience, takes less than 30 minutes. Shoppers select from a range of styles and, through a series of short, instructional videos, are shown how to record their measurements (the company recommends a second person take the measurements, but it's technically possible for individuals to take their own).

Beyond fit, various details of each garment can be customized: On suits, for instance, shoppers can specify a monogram, the number of jacket vents and buttons, the color of the lining, if they'd like slanted and pen pockets and whether they'd prefer functional sleeve buttonholes, among other things (I'm told that functional sleeve buttonholes are a sign of tailor-made suits. In fact, many people leave one button unfastened to draw attention to it).

Indochino sent me a voucher for a free suit, and I invited my fashionable friend Michael over to the office to place an order. Michael, for background, is a 29-year-old English lawyer who typically orders custom-made suits and shirts from a tailor in New York.

Michael chose one of Indochino's more expensive suits — a $599 navy suit with a white pinstripe. He was impressed with the number of customization options — he was particularly pleased he could add a fictional boutouneire to his suit, which would be ideal for a wedding — and how quickly we were able to choose a suit and gather measurements. He was less confident, however, in my measuring ability, noting that some of the measurements I came up with were different than his tailor's. When the suit arrived four weeks later, he said he was pleased with the packaging, as well as the quality of the suit, but he wasn't pleased with the fit.

"It's too baggy," he said. "I prefer a European fit, and this is more of an American fit."

Michael's suit, as photographed with my iPhone.

Michael decided to take the suit in to his regular tailor to have the fit adjusted. Indochino offers a credit of up to $75 to have a suit adjusted by a local tailor, and will either make up a new suit or issue a full refund if it's deemed unalterable.

I relayed Michael's feedback back to Indochino's other cofounder, Kyle Vucko. "It's difficult," Vucko admitted. "Measurements can be done incorrectly. And even if they are done correctly, our perception of a good fit and a customer's perception of a good fit can be two very different things." It's for that reason Indochino offers the $75 credit.

It's also one of the reasons that has led Indochino to recognize the necessity of developing an offline footprint. The company launched a pop-up shop series dubbed Traveling Tailor, which will be making its way to the U.S. in the near future. At the shops, men can touch and feel the materials, get their measurements taken and learn more about the brand.

"It's the next step in our evolution," Vucko explains. "In the first part, we did predominantly suits, and online-only. Six months ago we got into pop-up stores. Our long-term version is to become a full-fledged clothing company" — one that sells both online and has "offline touchpoints," Vucko says.

His vision for the company follows a trajectory similar to that of Bonobos, a five-year-old online menswear retailer. The company got its start selling men's pants with a unique fit, expanded to other categories and is now making its way into Nordstrom stores nationwide.

Indochino has raised about $5 million in venture capital to date, and Vucko says additional funding is "on the horizon" this year. When asked about womenswear, he acknowledged it was something the company had explored but had no plans to launch within the next year. Women, he explained, are simply much more difficult to create flattering clothes for. The company has been looking into better fit systems — Vucko is particularly excited about Kinect's potential as a body-scanner — but doesn't believe the tech is there yet.

Indochino's biggest competitor — stateside, at least — is J Hilburn, a four-year-old company also in the business of made-to-order menswear. The big differentiator? J Hilburn has a network of 1,000 "style advisors" who come to customers' homes and offices to take measurements and advise orders. That's an inconvenience for some, but a worthy alternative for those who don't feel comfortable taking their own measurements and are willing to pay more for their suits, which begin at $700.

Would you order custom-made clothes online? Share your thoughts in the comments.

What is the future for British parent blogging?

Posted 29 June 2012 09:57am by Wendy McAuliffe with 10 comments

Last weekend, more than five hundred bloggers gathered at Moorgate, London, for the biggest parent blogger conference in the UK. 

The event, BritMums Live, attracted keynotes from Sarah Brown, Ruby Wax, Cherry Healey, and many respected bloggers, journalists and writers.

The collective power of parent bloggers

Before the event had even begun, the associated hashtag #BritMumsLive was trending on Twitter and had generated more than 5m impressions. This figure had since risen to 32m impressions (at the time of writing), and the conversation is still continuing!

If this isn't evidence enough of the collective power of parent bloggers (and particularly mumbloggers), maybe the fact that thirty-four high profile companies chose to sponsor the event might be. "There's someone doing market research; these are bona fide opinion formers," writes Guardian journalist Zoe Williams, who attended the event.

In the UK, we don't yet have the mega-mumbloggers they have in the US, where some have become household names. In the US there is even a saying, "have you been Dooce-ed?" which means 'have you ever been exposed for something you've written on your blog?' after Dooce, the anonymous US blogger who was sacked by her employer when her identity was revealed.

But there is no shortage of talent amongst UK parent bloggers, and the stage is set to get even more competitive.

One of the opening sessions at BritMums Live, 'British Blogging Now', chaired by editor Carla Buzasi from the Huffington Post UK, exposed the shifting balance of power between influential bloggers and journalists.

"There is a massive over-supply of writers in this digital era," commented Steve Keenan from Travel Perspective. "Bloggers will replace freelance writers who just don't 'get' blogging".

Political blogger Dan Elton from Left Foot Forward, added to this saying: "We are ending up with people with multiple degrees writing for us for free". A recent column in The Guardian within its 'Comment is Free' section tackled this very issue, asking why creative people, especially writers, are increasingly being "forced" to write for free. "The 'work for free' virus has spread because we lack collective organisation," author, Jonathan Tasini, argued.

Within the BritMums Live session, another panellist, Sarah Ebner from The Times' School Gate blog, confirmed: "Behind closed doors, there is an increasingly symbiotic relationship between journalists and bloggers". She implied that while many journalists would prefer to not acknowledge their increasing reliance on bloggers for information and insight, it is in fact the state of play.

So what does the future hold for British bloggers, and in particular, parent bloggers?

If there's one thing that BritMums Live confirmed, it's the tremendous appetite that individuals across the social web have for parenting stories and opinions. 

This is extending into the book publishing space, with an increasing number of book agents and publishers scouring the blogosphere for potential up-and-coming writers, who have a strong social following and an interesting story to tell. In a book agent's eyes, this is an extremely marketable offering, delegates were told.

BBC presenter Cherry Healey, who delivered the closing keynote for BritMums Live, disclosed that TV producers are also taking a keen interest in the parent blogger space. "Lots of people here have blogs which have massive telly potential...that are perfect for a wider audience," she admitted.

She warned bloggers to be wary of TV producers who may run with their ideas and content if given the opportunity. "The perception of bloggers has really changed. Bloggers have huge power now".

When it comes to the topic of blogging for the greater good, great optimism was expressed for the combined impact that bloggers might hold. A panel of charities including ONE, Kids Company and Give as you Live, jointly agreed that the parent blogger community could mobilise a small army if it wanted to.

Cherry Healey encouraged all bloggers present to call on the support of relevant celebrities and well-known figures via Twitter to champion their causes. One very valuable piece of advice was offered though by Polly Gowers from Give as you Live: "If you wouldn't talk about it [in conversation], don't blog about it".

For charities, this is worth taking note of too. Don't begin working with a blogger until you are reassured that your cause genuinely sings well with them.

Brands and business that exist in the parenting space should certainly be breaking into this thriving blogging community, if they haven't done so already. "It's no longer twee and silly," admitted Cherry Healey.

Thinking intelligently and creatively about how you approach with and work with parenting bloggers is paramount. Currently, the majority of parent bloggers are PR friendly; but as their power and influence intensifies, they are likely to get harder to reach and engage with...particular if the UK follows in the footsteps of the US.

How Social Media Is Helping Colorado Wildfire Relief

In a crisis, social media is ideal for spreading information fast — and helping disaster relief organizations get up-to-the-minute information about the situation on the ground.

This week's wildfires in Colorado are no exception. Grassroots campaigns, alongside major relief organizations, have analyzed social media data to help people in the fires' way.

Waldo Canyon Fire Tracker

Two Colorado Springs, Colo. residents, Scott Seibold and Robbie Trencheny, crafted a Twitter application which aggregates tweets that use the hashtag #WaldoCanyonFire, #WaldoFire, #waldocanyon and Colorado Springs. The tool also separates out official tweets from the city and pictures.

You can in theory do the same thing by watching Twitter trends or making lists of official accounts. But Seibold and Trencheny say their target audience are not Twitter users.

"We're trying to target people who don't have a presence on Twitter," Trencheny told Mashable. "This is a really quick way to get the story out."

For example, this picture of a displaced dog has been retweeted several times, and will reach far more eyeballs in the city than there are Twitter users.

"There was a lot of panic as the roads closed, so we wanted to let people know as soon as possible what was going on in a fairly productive manor," Seibold says. "This is so intuitive that you don't have to understand Twitter."

Seibold and Trencheny are residents of the east side of Colorado Springs, and have opened their home up to residents of the city's west side. So far 30,000 people have been evacuated and 400 homes have been destroyed.

The duo are hoping to expand the tool to monitor the other fires in Colorado. They're also considering adding a geo-fence, so only tweets posted in the area will appear in the stream.

Red Cross' Emergency Response Center

The American Red Cross launched a social media response system in March — officially called the Digital Operations Center and casually called the Digidoc — which monitors real-time data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

The Colorado wildfires and Hurricane Debbie earlier this week were the two largest disasters to occur since its launch.

"We've seen a lot of people being afraid and scared this week," Gloria Huang, social engagement team member at the Red Cross, told Mashable. "We're able to reach out to them and give them digital hugs and provide mental safety."

In addition to spreading words of encouragement, the digital engagement team has been offering locals something more practical: the locations of their nearest shelters.

How else could social media help in a crisis? Let us know in the comments.

Photos From the Colorado Wildfires

Image courtesy of Twitter, @wrestlingwfaith

Google Nexus Q: Ready for Party Fouls, Not Prime Time [REVIEW]

Google is calling the Nexus Q the "world's first social media streamer." When connected to your TV, this $299 ball can be used to stream tunes and videos from your favorite (Gingerbread or higher) Android device.

If you have Android-toting friends over, you can also give them the ability to control the Q and play their own music and videos.

Set to ship in mid-July, the Q is much more expensive than most music and media streaming devices.

And sad to say, it isn't worth it. The Q is fun to play with, but it also has some significant flaws.

Looking Good

When Google designed the Q, it was looking to create something that you'd want to display on a bookshelf or beside your television for everyone to see rather than keep hidden in a cabinet. While some won't be thrilled with the orb design, there's no denying it looks a lot better than your average set-top box.

The matte finish of the Q is beautiful to look at. It's smooth to the touch and looks every inch a $300 gadget. Recessed ports on the back of the device help you keep cords tidy and out of the way.

LEDs around the center of the Q can be customized for your space with a number of different themes. The lights will pulsate in time with the music, while a cool visualization comes up on your screen. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but it's still nice to look at.

Waving your hand in front of the blue dot on the front of the Q will mute music, and sliding your fingers along the front can turn the volume up or down. The experience is pretty slick, but it's also not exactly practical.

A pretty ball-shaped device with flashing lights begs to be touched, and likely will be everyone –including small children. During our initial hands-on with the Q, I picked it up and managed to mute the music by accident. Then I accidentally blasted the music so loud I could have broken the speakers, or maybe some eardrums. It's a party foul in the making.

Getting Started

Setting up the Q is surprisingly simple. The HDMI cable, included, is all you'll need to get connected to your television. Tech-savvy or not, most anyone should be able to get the device hooked up in just a few minutes.

The remainder of the set-up is done from your Android device using a special Nexus Q app, available at the Play Store or by tapping your phone on the Q to have it sent via NFC.

On-screen prompts within the app guide you through connecting your phone or tablet to the Q via Bluetooth, and inputting information about your Wi-Fi network so the Q knows where to connect. You also identify what room of your home the Q you're setting up is going to be positioned.

You could have a Q set up with speakers in every room of your home and control all your Qs from the same device. If you don't have Wi-Fi – or live somewhere where there's a ton of networks to choose from — the Q can also be connected to the web with an ethernet cable.

Rock and Roll

Once you've gotten the Q set up, streaming music and movies is a breeze with your Android device. Tapping a play button at the top of the screen when playing a song will let you select the Q as an output device via whatever you have it connected to. That's it.

I was able to play some YouTube videos and music on my TV with no issues. Quality looked to be as good as I typically see streaming other content over the web onto my TV, and switching from music to movies and back again worked without much lag. The Q is currently only able to play content from YouTube, Play Music, and Play Movies so you're also pretty limited in what you can watch.

Party Stopper

The main advantage the Q has right now over its competition is its social feature. In theory you can create playlists with the Q with your friends and give everyone at your party the ability to control what music is playing and shuffle the tracks around.

All that sounds great, but when it comes time to actually trying to use the functionality -– it just doesn't work.

I first set up my Q using a Galaxy Nexus running Jelly Bean. I tried to join a party with the Nexus 7 tablet also running Jelly Bean, and while the tablet could find the Q, it wouldn't let me play any content on it.

Trying to access the Q from my Nexus 7 also seemed to lock the device. I can still play music and stream videos from my Galaxy Nexus, but I no longer have access to the settings for the Q.

I ran into similar problems trying to give a friend's Android device the privilege to spin tunes: it just didn't work, and produced error messages more often that not.

Both of my devices are afiliated with my Google account, so you would think I would be able to seamlessly connect to the Q. Not so much.

Not Ready For Prime Time

The Q isn't on sale just yet, and that's probably a really good thing. In its current form the software is too buggy to make it worth using at all, much less shelling out $300 for.

If you're looking for something to stream video, there are other options out there that can get the job done for a lot less money. Some of those competing devices also offer more forms of content — Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify — than the Q can currently handle.

A solid software update -– at the very least -– is going to have to happen before the Q can make its way into consumers' hands. Google has opened the Q up for developers, and will be interesting to see what they are able to create, and whether the Q can ever offer more functionality than its competition.

Why the iPhone Was Truly a Disruptive Product

Chances are, the smartphone in your pocket bears little resemblance to the cell phone you were carrying 5 years ago. That's largely because of what happened on June 29, 2007, the day the iPhone was released in North America.

As I wrote on the anniversary last year, "every major smartphone that has gone into production since the iPhone's release has, in some way, been a response to the iPhone itself."

Since 2007, I've written hundreds of thousands of words about the iPhone, iOS and the modern smartphone ecosystem. I have chronicled the impact the iPhone has had not just on Apple, but on the telecom industry, the smartphone market and computing as we know it.

Now, on the fifth anniversary, I want to home in on a few specific examples of companies and individuals that the iPhone has profoundly changed.

SEE ALSO: iPhone: The 5-Year Old That Changed the World [INFOGRAPHIC]


On June 29, 2007, Microsoft was still the largest technology company in the world. Sure, Windows Vista was getting a rough reception in the marketplace, but its maker was flying high. Windows Mobile wasn't a huge hit, but it did well enough.

Steve Ballmer laughed at the iPhone in January 2007, remarking that businesses users would never go for the phone because "it doesn't have a keyboard."

Whoops. Five years later, Apple now tops Microsoft in terms of revenue, market cap and profits. Microsoft has upended its mobile strategy and has a good product — but it's struggling to gain a foothold in the market, which is dominated by Apple and Google's Android OS.

More importantly, Microsoft's entire strategy has started to shift. At the Microsoft Surface announcement last week, Microsoft announced that for the first time it would be competing directly with its manufacturing partners with its own hardware.

This is a profound turn for a company that was built on a licensing model. Bill Gates famously pleaded with Apple in 1985 to license its hardware and operating systems to other companies. Apple refused. For the next two decades, conventional wisdom dictated that Apple should not have ignored Gates's advice. It should have licensed its software and hardware designs.

SEE ALSO: Apple's iPhone, Still Sexy After All These Years

What we've seen since the iPhone's introduction, however, is a move away from the license-to-all model. Though Android does this and does it well, there is also widespread recognition that owning both the hardware and software experience is good for both profits and for customers.

Microsoft's switch to an integrated product approach with Surface — and its plans to use a shared core between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (much as Apple uses the same core for OS X and iOS) — is a tacit acknowledgment that in the new era of computing, the strategy Apple executed with the first iPhone is going to lead the way.

If you had asked me five years ago whether Microsoft would be adjusting its entire business model to be more like Apple (and not merely trying to ape its products), I would have laughed. Yet this is Microsoft's current reality.


Canada's Research in Motion (RIM) is another company that expressed doubts about Apple's potential in the smartphone space on June 29, 2007.

In June of 2007, RIM and the BlackBerry brand were on a tear. BlackBerry was just starting to hit the consumer space with a bang, thanks to handsets such as the Pearl and the original BlackBerry Curve. Profits and adoption was growing by leaps and bounds.

The smartphone market, as it existed in 2007, was essentially the BlackBerry market. Like Microsoft, RIM wasn't worried about the threat from the iPhone. In fact, if one report is to be believed, the then co-CEOs of RIM didn't even believe the iPhone as demoed in January 2007 was possible.

Only after the Apple device was released, and lived up to the hype, did RIM started to consider the implications. It would take the company years to really get the iPhone, and to see the reverberations not responding would have on its business.

More than any other company in the smartphone space, RIM has squandered its position, in large part because it was in denial that the iPhone changed the game for enterprise customers as well as consumers.

Even Nokia, for all its mismanagement and poorly executed OS strategies, started working on touch and app-centric approaches for its phones soon after the iPhone was released. Symbian, Maemo and MeeGo might have failed to deliver real competition, but at least Nokia tried.

Until RIM acquired QNX in 2010, the Canadian company didn't even appear to be trying.

RIM can't be faulted for not being prepared for the keyboardless wonder of the iPhone. It was counterintuitive. Still, the fact that it took five years for the company to finally understand that significance is what will probably end up sinking it.


On June 29, 2007, I was not an iPhone owner. I wasn't even a full-time Mac user. My phones of choice were a Motorola Razr, an HTC Windows Mobile device and a BlackBerry 8800.

Despite my early bullishness on the iPod (I got my first device in September 2002) and my determination to "go Mac" before that fall semester, I was not convinced that the iPhone would be the next big thing. Sure, I thought, it'll do well — but it's too expensive, and the single-carrier issue (especially the fact that single carrier was AT&T) will hurt it.

I wasn't wrong about it being too expensive. Apple lowered the price by $200 just two months later. But I was wrong about everything else.

Within a week of the device's release, it was clear to me that the iPhone was the technology story of the year — if not the decade. I was already writing about technology on my own personal weblogs, but it was the fervor over the iPhone that made me to want to do it in a more substantive way.

By the end of the summer, I was a full-time Mac user, an iPod touch owner, and about to become a blogger for The Unofficial Apple Weblog and Download Squad.

Writing about Apple, mobile technology and web apps changed my professional life. It changed my personal life too, as my work introduced me to the man who is now my husband.

I was still a BlackBerry user until 2009 — though I had long moved to doing everything but phone calls on my various iPod touch device. It took two years before I finally broke down and agreed to give AT&T my hard-earned money.

Five Years Later

Five years after the iPhone's release, the device permeates our culture and consciousness. The iPhone — especially since 2008?s introduction of the App Store — has transformed from a low-functioning device into the companion many feel they can't live without.

The market for point-and-shoot cameras, low-cost video recorders and even handheld game consoles have all contracted because of the success of iPhone, and the similar-looking smartphones that have followed in its footsteps.

Some pundits like to argue that the iPhone didn't invent anything; it merely popularized technology (touchscreens, Gorilla Glass, etc.) that was already available. That may be true in a sense, although nothing before or since has done more to bring technologies together and create something entirely new.

What the iPhone taught us is that execution is vital. It's not enough just to have all the pieces; you must have them fit together properly.

As a smartphone owner before the iPhone, I remember how I used that device. It was to check and send email or text messages, perhaps look up the odd website on a WAP browser, make phone calls and play simplistic games.

My phone wasn't my primary portable music player. It wasn't my video camera. It wasn't my still camera. Nor was it my instant outlet to the world via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It wasn't my compass or my portable eReader. Today, my phone is all that and more.

All of which makes me excited about the next five years. It's not a guarantee that Apple will still be the world's biggest tech company in five years time. Maybe it will be Google, perhaps Facebook, perhaps something else entirely.

Still, I have to think that the gestures, the touch-centric and app-centric worldview popularized and properly executed by iOS will still be visible in the ways we work and play.

How is your life different five years after the iPhone's release? Let us know in the comments.

viernes, 29 de junio de 2012

A personal trainer and entertainer in my pocket: social gaming and apps for diet and exercise

Posted 28 June 2012 21:37pm by Danielle Mackie with 0 comments

As smart phones and tablets flood the market, a quickly emerging trend is the use of apps and social gaming to encourage healthy eating and exercise habits.

Brands that are focused on improving health have seen this as an opportunity to drive healthy behavior changes and build lasting relationships with customers.

Why does gaming work?

The theory is games satisfy some of our fundamental desires such as reward, competition, status, achievement, and selflessness. BJ Fogg and his team at the Stanford University have developed a behavior model to help designers and developers identify what stops people from performing desired behaviors. They outline three factors that must happen together in order to get a change in behavior - motivation, ability, and trigger. 

Fogg Behavior Model

Examples of apps that support diet and exercise

There are many apps available to consumers to help them on their weight loss journey. These applications can be so sophisticated that they could be considered a personal trainer. 

Some apps are simply designed to allow users to track and share. Worksmart Labs and MapMyFITNESS, Inc. both provide smartphone apps that allow users to record workouts, track eating habits and share their accomplishments with friends. Both of these apps use built-in GPS technology to enable users to record and chart their daily fitness activities.

Other apps such as MeYou Health utilize gaming triggers. Their product, Daily Challenge, is an application that encourages users to take small, achievable steps toward healthy living every day. Once the task is accomplished, the user can choose to share with their network.

Rapidly growing in popularity are the applications that also leverage virtual economies and customer rewards. Examples include:

  • Nike+: users earn NikeFuel to unlock awards, trophies, and surprises. Users can also use a number of different mobile devices and gadgets to automatically track their activities.
  • Healthper: a social game that regularly rewards its members with unique gifts and merchant deals for accomplishing tasks and challenges. 
  • Fitocracy: users are encouraged to participate in activities and challenges to earn points. Once a certain number of points are earned the user has the option to level up. Leveling up unlocks new accomplishments and quests. 
  • Zamzee: an online rewards program for teens that is powered by their physical activity. The amount of movement powers the online rewards account, where a virtual currency can be used to purchase both virtual and real goods.

Marketers can capture the attention of social gamers multiple times a day with these apps. Econsultancy's Social Gaming Smart Pack highlights various business models and monetization techniques used in social gaming including:

  • Branded content
  • Virtual goods
  • In-game advertising
  • Display advertising
  • Lead generation offers

Brands that can offer services or products that support a consumer's journey to achieving a healthy weight can benefits from exposure and brand recognition by incorporating social gaming into their marketing campaigns. 

What's next?

The question is not what, but when and who.  Social gaming is still in its infancy and is rapidly growing. Social games and applications can be created for any industry with the intent of making the lives of its users easier. The question we should be asking is who will come up with the next big idea first.

You can learn more about social gaming, location-based marketing, and mobile advertising in Econsultancy's Social Gaming Smart Pack.

Danielle Mackie is the Member Services Manager for Econsultancy North America.

Earning a place in the future of marketing

Posted 28 June 2012 10:56am by Lloyd Gofton with 0 comments

Marketing today has so many different guises that it's impossible for professionals to live by one skill alone. 

Ten years ago there were clear divisions and defined roles and skillsets. PRs, writers, marketers, web developers and search marketers hardly spoke, let alone crossed into each other's worlds.

The situation has changed dramatically since then and it's time for the agency world to follow suit.

Throughout this period, the one common and defining factor has been access to and usage of the web. Although  the previously regimented world of marketing might see the web as a complex and unruly beast, others believe it has done the opposite, simplifying what should be a straightforward approach.

If the movement online has helped brands to communicate more openly and honestly with customers and communities, surely that is where the focus should have been in the first place? 

Truly understanding what people want and fulfilling that need must be a simpler path to success than telling customers your product is the best, and ignoring all feedback to the contrary to maintain some imagined brand reputation.

So how can we evolve to meet the needs of the modern consumer and, therefore, the modern brand? One thing is clear, this change won't come about through one discipline 'owning the sector'. 

We've endured the ownership debate that demands one discipline must lead because of issues that are no longer relevant. The reality that I see is joined-up thinking, simplification and focus on what is most important. 

The idea of earned media, owned media and paid media is by no means new, but it does go some way to achieving a more simplified and encompassing approach to what is relevant for marketing. 

Forrester defines Earned Media as "a message about a company passed between consumers as a result of an experience with the brand". It defines Paid Media as "a  message delivered from a company to a consumer by paying to leverage a channel not controlled by the company".

These are definitions that resonate with my experiences of the sector. We should not be focused on channels and disciplines, but conversations and experiences. 

Earned media encompasses everything that doesn't require a payment to deliver a message such as videos, comments, pictures, stories, conversations, feedback and ratings. Paid media includes advertising, TV, web, paid search and deals, and owned media would be the brand's website, microsites and so on. 


Paid, Earned and Owned Media by Gavin Llewellyn

This means that to succeed in earned media, we must develop adaptive brand communications and experiences that get messages to consumers on their own terms, by being useful, engaging and by earning trust.  

This is an important differentiation, especially in relation to the web, which aside from Google search ads, is an earned medium. This is how networks work.

In old money, an earned media approach is realised through four main tactical disciplines of PR, Social Media (marketing), Content and SEO. However, focusing on the outcomes of these disciplines is the way forward, not the disciplines themselves.

We do this by delivering combined services that will meet the market shift and favour powerful brand communications that embrace the complexity and fullest potential of the web, focusing on speed, data, community and direct conversations.

Looking at the evidence, CMOs are looking for people to make it all work together. They don't care what the disciplines are called, they just want to tell brand stories and find out how all non-paid digital can help them achieve their goals. 

This type of thinking is also fuelling a market correction, with money moving from paid media into earned and owned.  There's a new focus on how paid media can support earned and owned, as well as questions around whether paid media, such as targeted ads, work as well as was previously believed.

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola's CMO and CEO both stated that 20% of their marketing budget will go elsewhere, specifically citing inbound marketing and social media. Procter & Gamble, the world's largest marketer with a $10bn annual ad budget, has also established it will spend more on social media, content and SEO... P&G was also responsible for that (excellent) Old Spice campaign by the way.

It's pretty clear that brands are already unwilling to pay five agencies to do five roles that one should really be able to accomplish. Is it too much to ask that brand communicators should be able to establish emotional connections with customers, without the client needing to worry about where each level of service implementation comes from?

The truth is we as consumers absorb media quickly, and expect our services, brands and conversations to be cross-discipline very quickly, so why shouldn't we expect the same of our agencies?

The agency that succeeds will be the winner, it won't be search or social or PR or even advertising. It's more likely to be Earned Media or Earned Media-led, and that makes the future so much more interesting.