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Around the beginning of June, I got a sad note that David Roman would be retiring from Lenovo. He had one of the deepest pedigrees of any chief marketing officer (CMO) I’ve ever worked with (and a lot of success at Lenovo). He was one of the early Apple marketing execs and then moved to NVIDIA and HP, where he ran one of the most powerful marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen “The Computer Is Personal Again.” He finally ended up at Lenovo and helped turn a brand no one had heard of into a near household name. ExecRank ranked him 15th among marketing executives across all industries.

This week, I’ve been thinking about marketing and the lack of real creativity in technology marketing of late. Apple seems to just rehash the same old stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty good, but it’s well off the mark that Steve Jobs set when he was alive.

I’d like to revisit some of the more interesting things I watched David do over the years in the hope that someone else can learn from this and restore some of the magic to marketing in tech.

One of the big problems with the technology market is that the way it is structured. Intel and Microsoft tend to get most of the margin. This leaves it up to them to drive demand into the market. Unlike Apple, which keeps the margin to itself, the WinTel (which is fast becoming WinAMD) OEMs don’t have the funding to do the marketing needed to keep funds flowing into this segment.

So they need to come up with creative ways to do a lot with a little.

HP was going to spend the philanthropy money anyway, and each celebrity had their own favorite charity. So HP not only promoted its products, but HP’s spend on this largely went to charities and not celebrities. It not only moved products — it also made the world a better place.

One of the viral videos that Roman’s team created once he went over to Lenovo was of a flying laptop. This was part of a series of videos talking about Lenovo development and innovation. It was done as a joke (no flying laptops were hurt during the filming), but it was incredibly well executed. The video caught a lot of air. Incredibly realistic, the video was shot over a decade ago and still gives me a smile today.

Another amazing commercial was the this commercial that some think is one of the funniest ever made. And who could forget the time Lenovo took on Apple’s foolishly thin MacBook Air. This was a time when Apple was openly making fun of Windows and taking some pretty personal shots at Bill Gates. A lot of us applauded Roman fighting back.

The ad had some folks sitting at the bar talking about how reliable their laptops are. The guy with the ThinkPad drops his on the floor from shoulder height, but the laptop was unbroken. Another guy comes back from the bathroom and asks what they are talking about. A third guy says, “Watch this!” and drops a different laptop. You can hear what sounds like a break and parts going all over the place. The guy whose owned the laptop says something like “Dude, that wasn’t a ThinkPad” with clear reference to Steve the Dell Dude. I understand the Lenovo sales force gave David and his team a standing ovation for that one.

It is kind of sad watching David step down from Lenovo, but he has been running hard. I did exchange email with him after he left. He wanted to spend time with his young grandkids before they grew up, and his job wasn’t allowing him the freedom to do that. I expect he’ll be back in the ranks shortly (grandkids are often a ton more fun in small doses), and I couldn’t recommend him more highly.

I’ll miss seeing him regularly and wish the guy the best of luck. There are so few marketing folks that are willing to take risks these days. It was sad to lose one of the best, but I do expect Dave to come back. I can hardly wait!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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David Vs. Goliath, Part I

Less than a year ago, Brent Ruggles, IT manager at Snow Engineering & Corp. (SE Group), had no worries about the various high-speed internet service providers (ISPs) the company’s six U.S. and two international offices use. Because many of SE Group’s offices are in rural locations, the company, a ski industry consultancy, has to rely on smaller, local ISPs and doesn’t have the option of using one nationwide provider for all its locations.

That didn’t matter until Ruggles, offhandedly surfing the Web, happened upon news that the ISP providing service to SE Group’s Seattle office was about to cease operations. The second blow came months later when the company’s New Hampshire ISP came inches away from shutting its doors. What was once hassle-free for Ruggles has now become a time-consuming chore as he is forced to reevaluate the health of his existing ISPs, not to mention size up a second string of potential partners.

At a Glance

Company: SE Group

Location: Seven U.S. offices, including headquarters in Bellevue, Wash.; plus one office in Banff, Alberta, and another in Tokyo, Japan

Issue: A couple of the company’s small ISPs are closing down and SE Group needs to get alternative providers in place quickly.

Ruggles is not alone in his pain. Many small and mid-sized businesses over the last year have been waylaid by the financial problems hammering smaller ISPs, particularly those focused on digital subscriber line (DSL) services. DSL carriers that did not diversify their offerings have particularly suffered, because the service hasn’t taken off as expected. Some of the providers like Ruggles’ Seattle partner, Zyan Communications Inc. of Los Angeles, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and are in the process of reorganizing. Others like his New Hampshire office ISP, Vitts Networks of Manchester, N.H., are struggling to get additional funding to keep their businesses afloat. The list of near-casualty ISPs grows on a daily basis. One of the most recent is one-time high-flyer PSInet Inc. of Asburn, Va., which in March shuffled around its top management deck and announced a plan to restructure debt.

Do your homework

What does all this market instability mean for business customers like SE Group? Mainly, that they are going to have to sink a lot more time and energy into how they evaluate and choose ISPs, especially when they’re looking for partners to be around for the long haul. It’s not like there’s an imminent shortage of players. International Data Corp. (IDC), a market research firm in Framingham, Mass., estimates that even with market consolidation, there are over 7,000 ISPs in the U.S. alone. And there is still strong revenue growth projected for the ISP category. According to IDC, total revenues for IP services among ISPs and traditional telecommunications players was $24 billion in 2000. That number is expected to surge to over $80.6 billion by 2005, a compound annual growth rate of 27.5%, say IDC analysts.

The complicating factor in all this for small and mid-size businesses is how to choose the right player amid all the hype, and now, hysteria over market consolidation. During the early heyday of DSL, many small and mid-size businesses were won over by the upstart providers’ state-of-the-art new services, ability to deliver personalized attention, and more competitive pricing options compared with what was offered by traditional, large telecommunications providers or regional bell operating companies (RBOCs). Until the market settles, however, experts say these may not be the best criteria upon which to evaluate an ISP partner. Instead, companies may now feel pressure to avoid the risk of new ISPs in favor of the long-term financial stability of established players, even though they may not necessarily offer the most compelling deals or services.

“Finding stable ISPs that will be around several years from now may be hard,” notes Steven Harris, senior research analyst with IDC, in New York. “Companies may be loath to go with a major RBOC for [Internet services], but they will survive and be around.”

Tomorrow, find out what you should look for when evaluating an ISP.

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How David Bianchi Is Elevating Socially Conscious Issues Through Nfts

It’s no secret that the NFT market is absolutely saturated with one-off PFP projects and 3D memes. An ecosystem undoubtedly defined in the shadow of Beeple’s landmark $69 million sale, it can be difficult at times to remember that the NFT space isn’t solely comprised of collectors and flippers, but real people — many of whom are minting fantastically stunning pieces of art on the blockchain.

As a creator leveraging blockchain technology, David Bianchi may be a man who makes a living as an actor, but he is, first and foremost, an artist. Through his chosen medium, spoken word cinema, and influential projects like “The Revolution Is Being Televised,” Bianchi is not only aiming to change the perception of what an NFT can be but doing so in a way that is socially conscious and actionable.

Speaking Truth to Power

As an actor featured on a laundry list of movies and TV shows, Bianchi has already set himself up for Hollywood success. Yet, his passion lies not on a blockbuster set, but within the spoken word, and the unique niche he’s carved for himself as an independent filmmaker.

Spinema™, which Bianchi defines as “spinning cinema through spoken word,” is spoken word cinema that comes in a variety of flavors and mostly focuses on socially conscious issues. With Spinema, Bianchi aims to elevate the artistic conversation surrounding what can be difficult and sensitive topics, while at the same time raising money for non-profit organizations that are working to change the problems his art addresses.

“I’ve been producing spoken word films for 17 and a half years, and I’ve been doing so out of my own pocket,” Bianchi tells nft now. “This is just what my heart tells me I need to do. Creating socially conscious work is part of my heartthrob.”

While Bianchi has compiled an impressive catalog of Spinema films throughout the years, in March of 2023 he garnered national attention with I Can’t Breathe — a foreboding, five-minute spoken-word film centered around the murder of George Floyd. The film quickly found its way into the hands of Floyd’s family and was played at the one-year memorial of his death.

I Can’t Breathe ultimately made history as the first-ever award-winning spoken word film to be minted as a nonfungible token. It also helped introduce the NFT space to Spinema and set the stage for many of Bianchi’s future NFTs. “When you watch a Spinema film, not only is it socially conscious, it packs a punch and holds the audience in a way that typical narrative doesn’t do,” Bianchi tells nft now. “I cried so many times when this work was embraced by the NFT community. Never in my life had I had my work praised, loved, discussed…”

“If it wasn’t for NFTs, my work wouldn’t have the purpose that it has,” Bianchi tells nft now. “As a result of that [NFT technology], we can really raise real socially conscious topics, have great discussions about the ills of society, while I donate thousands of dollars to nonprofits and create high art that is respected by a community of sophisticated young, tech-savvy individuals hungry for change.”

While Bianchi is not alone in his experience of gaining visibility by way of NFTs, his approach to the art he mints is vastly different than the majority of projects and collections topping the charts of the world’s largest platforms. While photography and music have slowly but surely been finding a foothold in the digital art-dominated NFT market, few have attempted to onboard film onto the blockchain, and it seems that none have succeeded quite like Bianchi.

A STILL FROM BIANCHI’s “THE REVOLUTION IS BEING TELEVISED” SERIES

In 2023, Bianchi is partway through his latest Spinema NFT series, “The Revolution Is Being Televised.” Following his influential “Break The Bars” MakersPlace drop, the filmmaker has returned to curated NFT platform SuperRare for the series of six provocative film offerings. Currently, two pieces from the collection — which premiered at DreamVerse presented by MetaPurse & TIME — have been minted, and the series of high-concept cinematic NFTs is to continue once both have sold.

Notably, what you see is not necessarily what you get with “The Revolution Is Being Televised,” as Bianchi says the series will become more meaningful and intense as each subsequent NFT is released.

Aside from releasing his own NFTs, Bianchi is also an active part of the NFT community and regularly engages with collectors, artists, and builders through social media. As an independent filmmaker and all-around creative who has been collecting crypto since 2023, it’s no surprise that Bianchi has found a community all his own in the NFT space.

With his own unique creations now paving the way for his independent success, Bianchi says he’s inspired by the current state of the NFT ecosystem but is focussing on the long term in hopes of leaving something palpable and significant behind for generations to come.

“I think I have a specific responsibility to the generations before me to forge through and use the blockchain to try to change the world,” Bianchi tells nft now. “I want to leave a legacy. What I leave behind me is a side effect of who I have become.”

Related Content:

Photos courtesy of David Bianchi.

Group: Spectrum Plan Could Shut Down Tv Stations

A U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposal to transfer 120MHz of television spectrum from broadcasters to mobile broadband carriers could require more than 800 TV stations to change channels and could drive more than 200 off the air permanently, according to a trade group.

The spectrum transfer “is very difficult to do without doing tremendous damage to broadcasting,” Smith said during a press conference Monday.

The FCC and mobile carriers have pushed for so-called incentive auctions as a way to free up TV spectrum to meet a skyrocketing demand for mobile broadband spectrum. The Strengthening Public Safety and Enhancing Communications Through Reform, Utilization, and Modernization (or SPECTRUM) Act, currently awaiting action in the Senate, would reallocate 84MHz from broadcasters. Negotiators working on raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling have reportedly talked about the spectrum auctions as one way to raise money to meet budget targets.

The FCC plan would take 40 percent of the TV spectrum away from broadcasters, after they gave up more than a quarter of their spectrum in the move to digital television (DTV) completed in June 2009, Smith said. The DTV transition also led to spectrum auctions, with mobile broadband carriers such as Verizon Communications and AT&T buying the 700MHz spectrum.

The NAB’s report, released Monday, assumes that the FCC would attempt to recover 120MHz of contiguous spectrum, from channels 31 to 51. It’s unclear how the FCC would recover that much contiguous spectrum with TV stations voluntarily giving up spectrum, and the agency’s national broadband plan does not target the specific spectrum used in the NAB study.

The DTV transition required only 174 full-power TV stations to switch channels, while the new spectrum plan would require 672 to clear out of the targeted spectrum, Smith said.

Eleven of New York City’s 23 full-power TV stations would likely go off the air under the FCC plan, the NAB report said. In Los Angeles, 13 of 27 full-power TV stations would likely go off the air, as well as 12 of 19 in the Philadelphia market and 13 of 23 in the San Francisco/San Jose market, the NAB said.

NAB officials stressed the importance of over-the-air broadcast TV during natural disasters and other emergencies. Mobile broadband doesn’t have the same reach, Smith said. Much of the reason for growing mobile spectrum demand is video, when TV stations already distribute video efficiently, he said.

Two trade groups disputed the NAB study. The spectrum plan calls for TV stations to voluntarily give up spectrum and for stations to be reimbursed for the cost of changing channels, said Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs at CTIA, a trade group representing mobile carriers. The NAB is using “scare tactics” when the spectrum reallocation can accommodate TV stations and mobile broadband providers, he said in a statement.

With incentive auctions, some TV stations may volunteer to share their spectrum, and others may decide to shut down and take the auction money, creating less of a TV spectrum crunch than predicted, added Michael Petricone, senior vice president of government affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association.

“The NAB study sets up and knocks down a purely fictional straw man,” he said in a statement. “The study presumes an unrealistic scenario in which every single existing TV station continues to operate over the air.”

Google Unlikely To Back Down At Privacy Lawsuits

Google’s privacy practices are under fire from lawmakers in Washington, civil liberties groups, and the average Joe mobile phone owner — the latest attack is a lawsuit from an Illinois man worried about how his personal information is used — but don’t expect the Internet search leader to back down.

Consider this: Google wants to know what you’re doing online so much it will even pay for the information. Google recently started asking people to add a Chrome browser extension that will share their Web-browsing behavior with the company. In exchange, users will receive a $5 Amazon gift card when they sign up and additional $5 gift card values for every three months they continue to share.

You can protect your privacy in four ways.

— You might try a recently released free tool that goes beyond what standard private browsing modes can do. Called Do Not Track Plus, it works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari and supposedly can also increase page load speeds by up to four times.

If none of that works, you could always join the flood of lawsuits.

The latest: Attorneys representing Matthew Soble filed a class action federal suit against Google on Feb. 17 for violating user privacy on Apple’s Safari Web browser. The suit says “Google’s willful and knowing actions violated” federal wiretapping laws and other computer-related statutes, reports Bloomberg.

Google says the whole debacle was unintended and it was only trying to provide features that Google users had enabled, such as sending +1s back to their Google+ profiles.

Yet what some are dubbing “Cookiegate” or “Safarigate” is just one more complaint in a pile of security concerns that consumers, privacy groups and lawmakers have raised in the recent, and not so recent, past.

Once the Google-Safari controversy erupted, Congress called on the FTC to investigate.

Google’s Privacy Practices

EPIC had previously filed suit on February 8 against the FTC to try to force it to stop Google from carrying out planned changes to its privacy policy, another much-disputed issue.

While EPIC has a long history of going toe-to-toe with Google over privacy, the issue has been particularly contentious ever since Google announced last month it would be changing its privacy policy on March 1 and consolidating user data across its products to create a single profile for each user.

Since then, Google filed a self-assessment compliance report with the FTC explaining how it protects the personal information of Google users.

Once Google’s report was made public, EPIC retorted by alleging that Google did not answer many of the questions it was supposed to and it didn’t explain to the commission the impact of the changes it will be making to its privacy policy on March 1.

Lawmakers have also repeatedly taken issue with Google.

When Google announced in January it would be consolidating its privacy policies and sharing user data across its products, eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Google stating that they believed consumers should have the ability to opt out of data collection.

Google responded with a 13-page letter to Congress in which it defended its plans and said users who want their data kept separate from multiple Google services have nothing to fear as long as they take the correct precautions.

And now citizens have a new worry with the Google-Safari controversy.

Google’s Next Steps

The resistance to Google’s recent activities has been intense, but will the company back down?

In addition to all the concerns about privacy, many believe that Google’s introduction last month of Search Plus Your World, which incorporates Google+ data with generic search results, degrades the credibility of what has traditionally been considered its core product. Some have even proposed that results from other Google products, such as YouTube, are ranked higher in the company’s search algorithm than they should be.

But search isn’t really what Google is about these days. It’s about social media as tries to take Google+ head-to-head with Facebook. As evidence, look at its efforts to push anyone using Android 4.0 to sign up for a Google+ account.

5 Steps To Better Branded User

Unleashing the potential of user-generated content from brands

We now live and work in the ”social media 2.0″ era, when consumers demand real-time, fluid conversations with brands. From product reviews to hashtags, consumers expect to have their say.

Leveraging UGC well can generate powerful results, and if you want your brand to succeed in the long term, doing so is practically unavoidable. Simultaneously, there are substantial risks to giving users free rein over your brand’s image. Here’s how you can balance the risks with the rewards for optimal results:

1. Bring influencers into your UGC process early.

Don’t just think of influencers as a distribution channel. Involve them in crafting your strategy as early as possible. It will increase the likelihood that your campaign will succeed and that the community will be receptive to it. Partnering from the onset will produce better ideas, more engaging campaigns, and superior outcomes.

2. Focus on authenticity.

Giving influencers a chance to engage in the creative process will make the content — and, in turn, your brand — more genuine.

Just make sure you avoid mistakes like Scott Disick’s Instagram gaffe. In a paid Instagram post for Bootea last year, the reality star accidentally included instructions from the brand in his caption. If you partner with an influencer who already loves what you do, the collaboration will be authentic and the influencer will be invested in preventing situations like this. At the very least, make sure you feel like the influencer understands your brand and can properly represent your brand online.

3. Know how to respond to controversy.

Scandals are almost impossible to predict, but you can identify red flags by examining a collaborator’s background and existing content before investing in the partnership. Make sure you’re OK endorsing everything your brand ambassador has said or done.

You also need to have a plan in place to respond if your influencer behaves in a way that’s inconsistent with your brand. Stay up to date on influencers’ content, even if it’s not for your brand. If your partner posts something that doesn’t align with your message, you should be the first to know — and the first to react.

For example, when one of YesJulz’s tweets included racist language, two festivals that were working with the social media influencer quickly cut ties. They dropped her from their events and openly condemned the tweets.

The bottom line is this: Your audience won’t separate your brand from any controversial content your influencer has already produced or might in the future. You need to be prepared to act decisively.

4. Give influencers clear guidelines.

You shouldn’t have to micromanage an influencer. In fact, it should be just the opposite. Clearly lay out brand guidelines, and let the influencer get to work. A campaign brief is an excellent way to communicate these ground rules. Plus, brand ambassadors can refer to this resource whenever they need to.

It’s also important to make sure the influencer’s branded content meets legal standards. If an influencer is receiving any compensation for the work, the Federal Trade Commission will treat it like any other ad. The FTC recently reminded influencers of this in a letter that directed them to clearly disclose their relationships with brands when promoting products on their social media channels.

5. Vet your influencer’s audience.

Take the time to examine an influencer’s follower base. While the influencer might have a massive following, if most of those followers are bots or fake accounts, your campaign won’t deliver good ROI. It won’t matter how great the content is if it doesn’t generate any conversations about your brand. Followers who don’t have profile pictures, don’t post their own content, or don’t engage with others are cause for suspicion.

Checking users one by one will paint the clearest picture, but time is money, so use a site like FollowCheck to analyze an influencer’s social media followers. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but it’ll point you in the right direction.

Successful user-generated campaigns are made up of authentic content that comes from authentic relationships. With the right influencer and the right channels, UGC will elevate your brand and raise your bottom line.

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