A while back, I commented on an invention for an “Internet Umbrella” …. an umbrella designed to tap into the internet on a pliable screen. The effort scored a resounding zero on a one to ten scale as a complete waste of time (unless, of course, your hobby was to waste time tinkering).

As a variation on a theme, a Korean company, SDesign Unit, announced the completion of a design for an umbrella that incorporates four wafer-thin, pliable speakers into the fabric of the umbrella. The speakers can connect to MP3 players (or other audio sources) to play favorites or even listen to radio broadcasts (SIRIUS and XM …. are you listening?).

The concept recently won the
International Forum Design award. SDesign is now turning its efforts to securing contracts for production models.

The concept has real merit and should take off with some hot creative shop taking the lead with a forward thinking client. The concept can lend itself to extensions for beach umbrellas, shade awnings, or promotional vendor pushcarts.

Gene Kelly never had it so good!


As much as things change, they stay the same.

The controversy in the print world is now focused on whether or not publishers should guarantee their circulation base on an issue by issue basis. The controversy is not new .... but agencies and marketers need to stir this pot once again .... because most of the industry cannot get its act together when it comes to audience measurement.

Frankly, the act is tired. Over three years ago, I posted commentary on just this topic offering a solution to the problem (you can find the commentary at
MediaLifeMagazine if you care to humor me).

Yes, the publishing groups have had some ups and (mostly) downs over the last few years. So let's beat them while they're down. Let's not applaud all the positive contributions they've made over the years -- negative reinforcement works best!!

Margins are shrinking --- for everyone. And we all have bigger battles to fight. The mere act of suggesting issue-based guarantees will, in the end, amount to a hill of beans while the related costs to support any such plan will, again, eat away at every one's bottom line.

Instead of coming up with schemes to squeeze another nickel out of the publishers, let's consider opening a real dialogue here and "play nice" in the sandbox, working with publishers, clients and agencies to forge partnerships that foster growth and encourage new thinking.

Let's stop running in circles.


Marrying the “magic” of technology with a commercial message is a challenge marketers are faced with every day. “Breakthrough” marketing events inspired by creative, marketing and media professionals can be fun and exciting while, at the same time, making a strong connection with the consumer.

Consider the common digital camera.

Because the camera sees a broader spectrum of light than the human eye, content in these “invisible” wavelengths can be created to generate displays that, while invisible to the naked eye, can be seen when imaged with a digital camera. The company that is exploiting this technology is Kameraflage ( ), founded by Sarah Logie and Conner Dickie.

Uses for the technology can range from contests driven by hidden messages, forwarded to an advertiser (and creating a database in the process), to watermarking movies or photos to prevent pirating.

Audiences can be encouraged to seek out these messages and build a brand around an interactive experience, where discovery, sharing and technology play a leading role.

The fashion industry is the first to utilize the new technology, generating a form of self-expression that will likely result in controversy …. defining jurisdiction between hidden images and physical reality.


The digital world is moving at such a rapid pace that many marketers simply do not have the bandwidth to keep up with, or take advantage of, opportunities and innovations in the marketplace.

One such underutilized digital tool is the BDA (Branded Desktop Application). You might even have it installed on your own desktop in the form of the widely distributed WEATHERBUG…..83 million users do! Another successful BDA is Southwest Airline’s DING …. a desktop alert mechanism that matches a user with special offers that meet their criteria. Since 2005 it has generated over $80 million in direct revenue for the airline.

BDAs have bee around for quite some time. Advances in software development raised the BDA to a higher level, creating the “stickiness” that so many marketers hold dear. As a CRM tool, it’s a marketers dream. BDAs can report on a wide range of usage behavior, tied back to any number of databases that serve up “alerts”…. and generate revenue in the process. Flu Alerts, developed for Roche, tie back to a national database that tracks the spread of influenza and warns users when certain levels are reached.

BDAs can take many forms or morph into others. They are becoming viral and develop as social networks, both public and private, to communicate with other users that maintain similar interests. Gadgets and Widgets are part of this growing trend.
This is not a passing phase. Don’t let the marketing opportunity slip by.