Links and Ideas on Making Winning Digital Advertisements

September 10, 2013 at 3:37 PM

People’s already short attention spans are getting shorter every day. In urban areas a person can see anywhere from 2000 to 5000 advertisements in a single day.

Seth Barron presenting at IAB Mexico 2013

Seth Barron presenting at IAB Mexico 2013

Furthermore, the great shift toward mobile technologies like Google Glass are ushering the possibility of being shown ads right in front of your eye (thus making them extremely personal as Seth Barron says); it is imperative that advertisers realize that in today’s world beautiful and engaging content is the only way to get their message across. It takes effort to produce great content, not so much for traditional ads.

There’s no magic formula for creating great content, but there are a lot of resources and best practices available out there to make the best go at it:

  • What makes an ad worth spreading? An interesting question which goes beyond the trite idea of “virality” – In this white paper about YouTube/TED’s Ads Worth Spreading the question is explored in depth.
  • The way advertising is delivered and consumed is also changing, Viewer Choice is quickly becoming the standard. This study from think Think Insights is a good example of how to make this trend actionable.
  • There is also a lot of information on the web about the nitty gritty of how to make engaging video content, no doubt this is an emerging field so take everything that you read with a grain of salt and definitely experiment a lot.  
  • Super Bowl ads are some of the best examples of amazing commercial content that entertains, sparks conversations and basically sticks in people’s minds. A search on Google or on YouTube yields dozens of examples to start learning from the greats.
  • YouTube is making a big effort to enable and promote content creators of all stripes. Check out the YouTube Creator Academy and the YouTube Creator Hub for resources and inspiration.


A mock of traditional text ads on Google Glass - by Engadget

A mock of traditional text ads on Google Glass – by Engadget

When Smartphones Cost 1 dollar

July 3, 2013 at 9:12 PM

What will happen when mobile devices are practically free and disposable? A question no doubt that developing nations will answer the loudest when it happens. Let’s remember for a moment that according to the world bank 80% of Earth’s population lives with less than $10 dollars a day. The next 5 billion to come online will do so through cheap and ultra portable mobile devices. Clearly though, in the future when that happens other modern and magical devices will be selling for a lot more. (holographic displays or virtual reality, anyone?) But the demand for all kinds of cheap mobile devices will continue to drive prices down until they become completely commoditized.

Here are some ideas about what might gain in importance then:


Social differences are flattened, knowledge is power as the old adage goes and soon for the vast majority of humanity which has lived for generations with less knowledge than their more privileged brothers “at the top”, a floodgate will open of equal access to it. With everyone accessing the web the economic playing field is leveled immensely and eliminates the disadvantaged relationship most people today have with the systems around them. This indeed will be a just and welcome change, but not one without conflict, for established players will suddenly have to make room for hungry masses of empowered humanity.

Connectivity, or access to the internet and other data services becomes the primary concern once the hardware is procured. Without connectivity smartphones lose their “smarts” and the richness in communication and information they can provide is inaccessible. Today this “gateway” to massive data-exchanges is provided by one or a handful of ISPs in every country and will probably continue to be so; given the infrastructure demands of maintaing a network. Though we may yet see new technologies which democratize access. One such disruptor is the concept of mesh networks (essentially decentralized p2p wifi networks) and is a good example of the kind of technology people could use to get connected without having to go through traditional ISPs.

Information & Communication Services, is the crux upon which a big part of success in the online space falls. Once a device has data access it can tap into the immensity of the interconnected Web. Users have to access the raw mass of information out there through services such as websites, apps, and other interfaces which permit the consumption and transmission of information. The enormous benefits of cloud computing will ensure that all information and services will be accessed in this way. Google is the clear leader today, but the global opportunity is so great that there is yet a lot of room for anyone to reap the rewards of creating useful ways for people to communicate and consume information online.

Security & Privacy is as big a concern, perhaps the most serious one. Eric Schmidt writes a lot about this subject in his book The New Digital Age, suffice it to say that it is a highly complex issue and more so because it’s difficulty will only grow as technological breakthroughs are made faster and faster thanks to the effects of steadily spreading connectivity.


Having devices which are extremely cheap yet powerful means that the first part of getting everyone online is solved. When this happens computing and communication will no longer be bound to devices, but instead to access and control of an all pervasive ‘information-space’.

Commentary on ‘The New Digital Age’ by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen

June 23, 2013 at 9:54 PM
The New Digital Age - Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen

Click to ‘The New Digital Age’ at Google Books

Here is a prescient book about the near future, a time when 5 billion of Earth’s citizens who have hitherto been disconnected from the Internet finally come online. The impact of this historic access to information and communication will bring profound changes to every aspect of people’s lives including the way their governments run the State.

Restrained in it’s analysis and conclusions but fanciful and ominous in it’s explorations, this book is required reading to understand the immense private and public opportunities (and challenges) all societies will be facing soon. Practically universal access to the Internet will change the course of human history forever.

Excerpts from ‘The New Digital Age’ by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen

“States and citizens both gain power from connectivity, but not in the same manner. Empowerment for people comes from what they have access to, while states can derive power from their position as gatekeeper.”
– Page 83

“The shift from having one’s identity shaped off-line and projected online to an identity that is fashioned online and experienced off-line will have implications for citizens, states and companies as they navigate the new digital world. And how people and institutions handle privacy and security concerns in this formative period will determine the new boundaries for citizens everywhere.”
– Page 34

“The Modern automation of warfare, through developments in robotics, artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), constitutes the most significant shift in human combat since the invention of the gun.”
– Page 201

[…] local encryption specialists will be highly valued because trust is important. This is not too different from what we see throughout the Middle East today, where virtual private network (VPN) dealers roam busy marketplaces, along with other traders of illicit goods, to offer access to dissidents and rebellious youth to connect from their device to a secure network. Media organizations that cover international issues will rely on these scrappy young VPN and encryption dealers as they rely on foreign stringers to build their news coverage.”
– Page 49

“In the future, as the flood of inexpensive smart phones reaches users in failed states, citizens will find ways to do even more. Phones will help to enable the education, health care, security and commercial opportunities that citizens’ governments cannot provide. Mobile technology will also give much-needed intellectual, social and entertainment outlets for populations who have been psychologically traumatized by their environment.”
– Page 63

Eric Schmidt in the UK 2013 - Copyright Associated Press

Eric Schmidt in the UK 2013 – Copyright Associated Press

“Under conditions like these, the world will see it’s first Internet asylum seeker. A dissident who can’t live freely under an autocratic Internet and is refused access to other states’ Internets will choose to seek physical asylum in another country to gain virtual freedom on its Internet”
– Page 93

“In general, direct investments in infrastructure, jobs and services offer more to the economy than short-term aid programs, and telecommunications is among the most universally lucrative and sustainable enterprises in the commercial world.
– Page 222

“The shared, “bigger picture” goals of these states – access to information, freedom of expression, and transparency – would trump the minor policy or cultural differences between them, creating a kind of revived Hanseatic League of connectivity. […] No longer will alliances rely so heavily on geography; everything is equidistant in virtual space. If Uruguay and Benin find cause to work together, it will be easier to do so than ever before.”
– Page 98

“To summarize: States will long for the days when they only had to think about foreign and domestic policies in the physical world. If it were possible to merely replicates these policies in the virtual realm, perhaps the future of statecraft would not be so complex. But states will have to contend with the fact that governing at home and influencing abroad is far more difficult now. States will pull the most powerful levers they have, which include the control they hold over the Internet in their own countries, changing the online experiences of their citizens and banding together with like-minded allies to exert influence in the virtual world. This disparity between power in the real world and power in the virtual world presents opportunities for some new or underappreciated actors, including small states looking to punch above their weight and would-be states with a lot of courage. States looking to understand each other’s behavior, academics studying international relations, and NGO’s and businesses operating on the ground within sovereign territory will need to do separate assessments for the physical and virtual worlds, understanding which events that occur in one world or the other have implications in both, and navigating the contradictions that may exist between a government’s physical and virtual foreign and domestic policies. It is hard enough to get this right in a world that is just physical, but in the new digital age error and miscalculation will occur more often. Internationally, the result will be more cyber conflict and new types of physical wars.”
– Page 120

“Historically, a prominent position implied a degree of public trust; […] the visibility of high-profile leaders corresponded with the size of their support base. But in the future, this equation will be inverted: Prominence will come first and easily, and then a person will need to build tangible support, credentials and experience.
– Page 132


Creating space for others to build the businesses, games, platforms and organizations they envision is a brilliant corporate maneuver, because it ensures that a company’s products are used (boosting brand loyalty, too) while the users actually build and operate what they want.”

– Page 180


” […] with so many conflicting accounts and without credible verification, all claims become devalued. In war, data management (compiling, indexing, ranking and verifying the content emanating from a conflict zone) will shortly succeed access to technology as the predominant challenge.”
– Page 190

“In the future, political exiles will have the ability to form powerful and competent virtual institutions, and thus entire shadow governments, that could interact with and meet the needs of the population at home. It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. Thanks to connectivity, exiles will be far less estranged from the population than their predecessors. Acutely attuned to the trends and moods at home, they’ll be able to expand their reach and influence among the population with targeted messaging on simple, popular devices and platforms. Exile leaders won’t need to be concentrated in one place to form a party or movement; the differences between them that matter will be ideological, not geographic.”
– Page 229

“Most post-conflict environments contain armed ex-combatants who find themselves without work, purpose, status or acceptance in society. […] they will find that the prospect of a smart phone might be more than enough to get started. Former fighters need compensation, status and a next step. If they are made to understand that a smart phone represents not just a chance to communicate but also a way to receive benefits and payment, the phone becomes an investment that is worth trading a weapon for”
– Page 246

“The case for optimism lies not in sci-fi gadgets or holograms but in the check that technology and connectivity bring against abuses, suffering and destruction in our world. When exposure meets opportunity, the possibilities are endless. The best thing anyone can do to improve the quality of life around the world is to drive connectivity and technological opportunity.”
– Page 251 (Conclusion) 

“Anyone passionate about economic prosperity, human rights, social justice, education or self-determination should consider how connectivity can help us reach these goals and even move beyond them”
– Page 251 (Conclusion) 


A great book, if a bit short for my taste. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the biggest challenges societies will face will be adapting to new technologies and thus social changes happening faster and faster thanks to the Law of Accelerating Returns, brought on by new and better technologies that relentlessly accelerate in capacity while diminishing in cost.

Android evices in different sizes

Amikoo Social Networking Startup

May 23, 2013 at 9:47 PM was a Web 2.0 social networking startup for high school and college students in Mexico, we were the first truly local social network in the country.


Newspaper clipping about Amikoo in the business section of the Reforma national newspaper

From idea to launch, I was the driver and oversaw all decisions behind Amikoo. I acted as founding partner, project manager, application designer, web designer, as well as brand, marketing and PR manager.

The project started in 2006 with meticulous research into all aspects of the emerging field of social networking, followed by the first drafts of the site which drew inspiration from similar examples present around the world. After some difficulty in finding the right people to work on the project and securing the right funding, we moved on to the development stage in the first quarter of 2007.

The development stage was strenuous; marked by over 6 months of complicated interactions between the feature requirements and designs put forward by me and the programming challenges faced by the 2 expert programmers hired to build the application. At the time, “all-purpose” web development frameworks were nascent, so the application was developed from scratch in PHP and hosted on our own servers (there was no cloud available at the time). The design and features were considerably influenced by fellow Social Networks Bebo and the original Xuqa. Our use of the recently popularized Asynchronous Javascript or Ajax made the design fast and cutting edge.

Amikoo user profile

Amikoo user profile

After many setbacks and missed deadlines the social network was launched in July 2007. Afterwards, the team focused on making improvements by listening to user feedback. I concentrated my efforts in executing a web marketing and PR strategy aimed at getting Mexican students to sign up and share the site, our biggest competitor was Hi5. Nurturing word of mouth was the most effective tactic for getting new users but we also used email marketing, SEO, an in-house blog and offline press.


Amikoo suspended operations in the first quarter of 2008 owing to considerably slowing user registrations which we believe were caused by:

a. Facebook booming and leaving everyone behind thanks to three key strategic moves: Opening up to people other than their original student target (while securely owning that base), translating the site into many more languages (including Spanish as one of the first), and the launch of their “game changing” f8 application platform.

b. A very crowded and quickly consolidating Social Networking market.

Newspaper clipping  about Amikoo and an interview of me in the technology section  of Reforma.

Newspaper clipping about Amikoo and an interview of me in the technology section of Reforma.

c. Barrier to new registrations caused by the “all my friends are already on another site” syndrome – making it hard for people to switch from a site they had already invested considerable time in.

d. Investor support was withdrawn after registered and active user targets among other milestones were not met on agreed time.

e. General timing. When it comes to Internet startups, a few months sooner to market can make all the difference.


Despite Amikoo not gaining serious traction as a social networking platform, it was a successful proof of concept that generated a small fan base and enough buzz to be noticed at a national level in Mexico.

Amikoo virtual gift shop with virtual currency

Amikoo virtual gift shop with virtual currency

A few highlights:

Gift shop with virtual currency called “koo”. The idea was to develop the shop into a mobile micropayment platform similar to those prevalent in Asian social networks such as CyWorld.

User uploaded and maintained public media gallery for enhancing profiles (A content app store for profiles, if you will). Each item in the gallery was a widget or other embeddable content and users could rate and comment on these “Kubos”.

Amikoo introduction and tutorial video titled “Amikoo te va a Encantar” (You’re going to Love Amikoo). Written and directed by my good friend Yahayra Juárez.

Secret admirer/crush feature. You could try to “fish” for someone you fancied, then if the other person “fished” you back, a private “connection” would be made between the two.

Public pages for schools and cities to discuss topics, publicize events, vote on polls, share media and carry out other “socializing” activities.


Amikoo te va a encantar
Amikoo introduction and tutorial video


Amikoo "Kubos" public media and widget gallery for embedding into profiles.

Amikoo “Kubos” public media and widget gallery for embedding into profiles.

Amikoo home page

Amikoo home page