Farming Out Madison Avenue

24 03 2009

Finally! Corporate America is wising up to the fact that Madison Avenue does not have all of the good ideas.

In what is surely a bellweather move, the CMOs of 10 major corporations (including H-P and Pepsi brand Doritos) have tentatively agreed to participate in a crowdsourcing contest for the next great ad. It’s nice to see the de-concentration of creative influence.

It’s also a bit bittersweet to someone else making a go of what was my MBA Lab to Market project (along with Craig Braun, Stephanie Herzberg & Tony Cusano), Wombat.

More details on the contest here:


the MacGyver of WiFi

2 10 2008

Just read a story about an extraordinary guy you should know about.  His name is Joshua Roberts and he is a grad student at Rice University.  Apparently, Joshua has been able to do something that the likes of HP, Google, Sprint and others have not been able to do in-house:  develop a predictive model that can identify with greater than 80% accuracy where dead zones would occur in public WiFi networks.  

Why is this important?  Because it means that utilities can better deliver on the promise of public WiFi, as in Internet access for everyone.  By creating operational efficiencies in the deployment of WiFi networks, Joshua has created greater economic opportunity for organizations like Technology For All (TFA) which brings the Internet to underserved areas of Houston.  

Joshua’s ingenuity wasn’t just limited to theoretical tinkering at his university.  He actually drove the streets of Houston’s Mountain View area to collect a whopping 35,000 GPS-tied samples.  Paired with the 29,000 samples he collected from the TFA networks, he was able to test his model for performance.

I don’t know much about the technical aspect of what Joshua has accomplished, but I do know that it is a testament to both intellect and persistence.  Hopefully, Rice and HP (the teams with which Joshua works) will be giving credit where credit is due when it comes time to move Joshua’s innovations from theory to practice.

HP as a Jump-Start for Start-Ups

24 09 2008

For the last year, Hewlett-Packard has been fleshing out its brand with its “What do you have to say?” campaign.  So far it has positioned HP’s hardware as tools for self-expression.  Competitively, this encroaches on Apple’s position in the personal computer space and elicits comparisons.  Not a bad move to be the PC option in the same consideration set as Apple. But I’m not sold yet.  I’d like to see what the ROI was on those gorgeous Gwen Stefani ads.

However, MediaPost’s Marketing Daily ran an article about an HP promotional contest that could be the start of something really impactful.  The contest was intended to reinforce HP’s software and hardware as tools for branding.  I.e. as tools for small businesses to express themselves. The contest encouraged small business owners to submit “what their business has to say” for the opportunity to work with branding experts and win an HP Logoworks package and printer.

Targeting the small business owner is a nice bridge between the “personal” computer and the “business” computer segments.  Considering general market forces, economic contraction, and the challenges that are mounting for small businesses, I think this is a terrific move and I’d like to see more from this campaign.  

Executed well, HP could become the brand of the new entrepreneur. The tool set that helps people monetize their own skills, passions and dreams.  This is meaningful and relevant in an economic climate of growing uncertainty, doubt and instability.  The functionality of products like LogoWorks or HP printers can be extended beyond the obvious to become the very bootstraps by which people will be pulling themselves up to succeed professionally.  

HP, if you’re listening, there are some great things that you can do in the branded entertainment space to help people realize they are their own greatest asset.  Something along the lines of providing a jump-start for start-ups.