Are you By-Product curious? Maybe you should be…

I’ve recently had the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and spend time in the ‘low power/long range/long life’ wireless industry. I’ve found it very intriguing and am going to focus on this industry for the foreseeable future. Why? A five-year old company in my home town, Synapse-Wireless, seems to have quite the tiger by the tail and all the right gear to tame it.

But, rather than spend time on this specific company, I think it’s important for ‘my business owners’ to learn how Synapse-Wireless got to where it is today…or really where it started.

But first…a word from Microsoft:

Young Bill Gates, 1977, Mug Shot

Young Bill Gates, New Mexico, 1977

Hi, remember Me? Bill Gates! I first started Micro-soft (yes, originally, I used a ‘hyphen’ in our name) as a programming language company. My first product was a Basic Language Interpreter and my second was Xenix (a variation of Unix). My third product was a Tools application, called Word…which somewhat started the original What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) visually oriented word processor. But, my real bread winner was MS-DOS…several years after agreeing to create DOS for IBM in 1981.

So, Microsoft became successful on Bill Gate’s second variation of its FOURTH product. And MS-DOS was actually a by-product of DOS, which Micro-soft was contracted to develop. Due to IBM’s poor thought-out licensing deal AND several successful IBM-BIOS re-engineering from Compaq and two other companies, Microsoft’s ‘by-product’ sales exploded.

There are other examples of by-products actually being the big bread-winner for companies. In one case, the by-proudct producing billions in revenue was deemed ‘not viable’ by the founders. You may have heard of a small company called Google. Google has billions of dollars of revenue from a by-product idea that wasn’t even the company founders’ own because they were originally against the concept.

Google Founders Brin & Page

Sergey Brin & Larry Page developed their main idea, a better search engine for the web, at Stanford in 1996. They founded Google in 1998, the same year they had both published a research paper as students denouncing the use of an “Advertising funded search engine” model. Today, the overwhelming market leader in Advertising Funded Search Engine revenue comes from Google Adwords, generating 90%+ of Google’s entire revenue…but clearly a business model that cannot succeed. I wish them luck. ๐Ÿ˜‰

At the start of this blog post, I mentioned a local company called Synapse Wireless and their snowballing success. What by-product has been generating their success? Really, the entire company is a ‘by-product’ of the CEO’s first company, an engineering services firm. One project he accepted exposed the limitations and constraints of developing applications for embedded wireless solutions such as industrial control, home lighting, long-range sensor monitoring and more. To complete the project, they ended up having to develop better development tools…which then evolved into a better architecture and superior mesh network operating system. It could end up being the “MS-DOS de facto standard” of the low-power, long range, long life wireless space. If the CEO had only published a paper totally denouncing the concept a few years earlier, I’d bet my house on it. Instead, I’m just going to bet a few years of my life on it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ™‚

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TV Commercials – the Good Go Viral (or at least Smell Like The Ones that Do)

[ Update: June 9, 2010, The Today Show did a short segment on the Association of Independent Commercial Producers “Best Commercials of 2009” selections…and the “I’m on a Horse” Old Spice commercial won! ]

I caught my wife rewinding the DVR and watching the “Old Spice” Superbowl Ad…AGAIN…last night. I can pretty much tell which TV Commercials will or are ‘going viral’ based on whether or not we rewind the DVR to watch it. The funny thing is that I had already watched a 20+ minute ‘behind the scenes’ breakdown of how they made this particular Ad weeks earlier.

Click to Watch on Youtube

Old Spice Ad: Click to watch on Youtube

I spent the first 15+ years of my career at a computer graphics company so I’m usually interested in analyzing ‘CG’ work (Computer Generated) and such. One of my daily tasks caused me to stumble across Leo Laporte’s video blog (ChiefTWiT) trying to prove a $100 bet as to whether the Old Spice commercial was a straight ‘old school’ shoot or did it involve CG. I mentioned to my wife later that afternoon that she should see this really cool commercial and why I found it interesting. While she said, “sure”, I could tell she was only being polite. Once we watched it, however, she really enjoyed it. Now I’ve caught her re-watching it a few times. A quick search and glance on Youtube shows this has now been viewed easily over 15 million times.

(Of course, you’ll likely note how hunky the actor is, as I’m sure my friends will point out.) Had I actually written about this a month ago when I showed it to her, I don’t think I would have guessed how much viral online attention it would get because I would have thought I was too close to the trees on this one. My wife suggested I should write about this, but I thought she was just being supportive.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

So…CG or ‘real’? If you want to watch an interview that discusses all aspects and ‘tears it down’ scene by scene, you can click on the below picture to hear the details…otherwise SPOILER ALERT, I’m giving away the answer further down:

ChiefTWiT Interview about Making Old Spice Commercial

Click to watch 20 minute interview on Youtube

But first,ย  I want to spend time on another commercial I have just seen this morning. It’s already going somewhat viral with over 1 million views just this week since it’s been posted. Maybe it’s the combination of ‘Magic’ and a Motorcycle?

Interested in seeing a new BMW 1000 RR taking the old “yanking the tablecloth off without messing up all the table ware settings”? Yep, BMW decided to show off their new Motorcycle by having it before the same trick…only in XXXL size:

BMW Table Cloth Trick

Click here to watch BMW Ad on Youtube

So, I think it’s pretty obvious that the BMW Ad is real and not CG – but I could be wrong. I would like to find out how many takes it took and how long it took to set up the table for each take. Please comment if you find any of this information.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

And…now. Look Down.

Look Back Up.

Look Down further. You see a Spoiler:

The Old Spice Commercial? Almost entirely real. Isaiah Mustafa is the actor, (and that is his real voice), and is an Ex-NFL player. The bathroom ‘set’ is a 3/4 mock with running water and it was placed on top of a 1/3 mock Ship set, which is sitting on a real beach. They pull the bathroom away with a crane and the actor ‘sits down’ onto a custom dolly at the point where he is distracting the audience with the oyster and tickets. (The only significant CG is making the diamonds ‘flow’ from his hand as well as the Old Spice product materialize upwards. Once the actor has sat down, they slide him off the boat onto a real horse…you can watch the clouds barely moving in the background to see that transition.ย  The other CG work is the final scene showing the horse, just under his head they had to brush out the dolly arm that pulled the Actor onto the horse.

So…everything had to be done perfectly from beginning to end in one uncut take. And dozens of people had to do their job flawlessly and on time without gear or equipment issues. It took three days and 57 takes before they nailed it. That’s both a strategic plan AND flawless execution — when the two come together it clearly adds up to way more than the parts.

I’ve been worried that TV Ads will go the way of Newspapers and Classifieds. However, both of these Ads are using techniques that are decades old AND obtaining huge viewership…even ignoring TV air exposure. Hopefully, if the Good Go Viral, they’ll justify the cost of production and the continued use of TV exposure to create and drive traffic online. I have noticed that the Old Spice commercial seems to be running much more often, and I wonder if it’s because of their online success. I personally hope this blend of media distribution does somehow fill in the void DVRs are causing in TV Ad revenues. Maybe they’ll end up showing fewer commericals for more money and Firms will use those slots to launch major Ad campaigns. Once they have an online indicator showing what is effective, they up their air space on TV to continue driving the promotion while utilizing the increased exposure online for more interactive two-way communications. I don’t really know, but do know I would hate it if e*trade babies, I’m a Mac and other fun commercials disappear entirely. Wouldn’t you, too?

Google SEO Report Card: Google Grades Its Own Pages

I’ve definitely blogged about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) “Best Practices” due to the high volume of Cons and Snake Oil Salespeople pitching everything from link buying to guaranteed top spots on Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Some people have contacted me to find out where I have derived my “Best Practices” list. I often point them first to Google’s published SEO tips.

Interestingly enough, Google has now released an SEO report card judging their own pages against these best practices.

Google Releases Their SEO Report Card

( Google Releases Their SEO Report Card )

They clearly have some more work to do, with some items only achieving 10% adherence and many items being below 50%. However, they are Google and the amount of links and articles and content generally help them achieve first page results without the strict adherence to these guidelines. Matt Cutts, ‘Mr. Public Google’, provides a great explanation on video from this weeks’ SMX (Search Marketing Expo) conference.

Unfortunately, most of my clients are a bit smaller than Google.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚ย  They don’t really have the luxury of ignoring these guidelines, so I thought it would be useful for them to easily view Google’s grades and explanation of scoring by clicking here and downloading their report card.

Obviously, if you’re not well versed in SEO, some of the information won’t make much sense. If you want to understand it better, drop me a line or comment below and I’ll be in touch.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚