TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION CASE STUDIES

Winners:
Zannel
Vizu
Mobility Public Relations

Commendation of Merit:
Nanos Research

Division: Technology Innovation
Category: Blogger Relations
Company: Zannel

The use of micro-blogging sites like Twitter and live blogging from events have become increasingly integral for bloggers looking to spread news from anywhere, in real-time. However, bloggers have generally been confined to micro-blogging with short, text-only updates, or have to rush — drafting their blog posts on the spot and carrying around their laptops. The challenge is to introduce an effective and simple way for bloggers to communicate current happenings with their audience through a variety of mediums, including text, video and images, in real-time. Zannel (www.zannel.com) is offering a new way for bloggers to expand their reach through mobile phones, drive incremental traffic back to their blogs, and get on board with an innovative way to communicate.

Today nearly everyone has a camera phone, and many people also have videophones. According to analyst reports, only 2-3% of the photos people take with their phones end up ever leaving that phone. SMS texting, on the other hand, has become a very popular form of communication in the general population. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. There is a huge opportunity for people, especially bloggers, to take the capabilities of their phones such as SMS, photos and video, and utilize them to communicate in a more effective manner, rather than simply with words, and reach a large audience in real-time.

Currently, bloggers are utilizing Twitter while out on the road, and at events, etc., which only allows for text updates to their followers. If they wish to live-blog with more details and photos, they need to find a seat somewhere where they can have their laptop running and be ready to start typing. They may be able to add picture or video, but in the time it takes to snap a photo, upload it onto a laptop and feed it onto an online blog (all while typing away), that picture is old news. Of course, there’s always the issue of having a reliable Internet connection. Without one, live-blogging is just not possible.

Cell phones work almost everywhere, and with their ability to send SMS messages and snap photos and video, there is an opportunity to be able to communicate not just with short texts, but with images and video as well. If bloggers had the ability to live blog any content with nothing but a phone, a new mode of communication becomes available.

Zannel users are between the ages of 16-34 and are everyday consumers, as opposed to the highly tech/professional audience of Twitter. Zannel users are interested in politics, celebrities, bands, musicians, local news, brands and a variety of other consumer-oriented topics.

Zannel is targeting visual bloggers, consumers, talent such as bands, artists, entertainers, celebrities and politicians, and brand names. All of these categories are ultimately potential bloggers.

Zannel’s goal is to become the first large-scale mobile media network worldwide. Its roadmap includes expanding platform functionality, increasing US penetration, and deploying internationally. It is Zannel’s mission to make it simple and easy use for people, especially bloggers, to use their mobile phones to create content.

Zannel’s plan is a multi-prong approach. Zannel is currently reaching out to a number of high-profile bloggers to enlist them as “Zannel evangelists.” Zannel is also forming relationships with influential celebrities, organizations and companies to spread the word virally via Zannel livecasting. Verticals included in this group span politics, music, film, entertainment, lifestyle and other pop culture avenues.

To ensure that Zannel is accessible to as wide an audience as possible, the company will continue to unveil new technology partnerships with the most popular devices and services used today by the target demographic.

As with many start-ups, Zannel continues to forge new territory in recognition and awareness. It has had to overcome the challenge of being categorized as a mobile photo sharing and mobile networking solution. Although these are aspects of Zannel, there is much more. Zannel is a multimedia equivalent to Twitter, where users can go to get short updates, or “nano-blogs,” with text, images and videos, from bloggers around the globe.

Zannel’s tools include its mobile and web-based networks, widgets that can be placed on blogs, MySpace and other websites, a Facebook application, and live feeds that push content to Twitter and Flickr.

Zannel launched the mobile industry’s first Instant Media Messaging™ service, which allows users to instantly and visually communicate with their friends across mobile networks and the web, including all major social networks. Founded by the team that built the first large-scale mobile media storefronts in the US, Zannel combines the best of mobile messaging, media sharing, and social networking into an intuitive, compelling user experience. Zannel aims to become known as the multimedia alternative to Twitter, focusing on the consumer audience rather than the technology-focused audience of Twitter. A qualitative measurement of success will be the use of Zannel by musicians, entertainers, politicians and brands to ultimately use Zannel as an advertising channel for their music, message and product.

One example of this occurred at the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC), where thirteen grassroots bloggers broadcasted video, pictures and text updates straight from the floor of the convention using Zannel and their mobile phones. These bloggers represented every region of the United States of America, and are contributing to Zannel’s PoliticsBlue community channel (www.zannel.com/politicsblue) from the convention through Election Day. Representing North, South, East, West, and even registered Democrats living abroad, these bloggers broadcasted their journeys to this historic event, their observations, on-the-fly interviews, interactions with delegates, and authentic captured moments with political figures on the national scene. By leveraging Zannel’s award winning mobile platform, they were able to instantly share their convention coverage with their blog’s readers, the Zannel community, and to the blogging and social networks to which Zannel syndicates content. For instance, one blogger was riding in an elevator with Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC, and interviewed him on video with his phone. It was sent instantly to Zannel for people to view. That behind-the-scenes view is not presented in any other way at the convention besides via Zannel (http://www.zannel.com/viewupdate.htm?id=BELCC64PP). In addition, the news that bloggers were using Zannel on the floor also became a news story on CNN (http://www.zannel.com/viewupdate.htm?id=X0G2GU7XS6).

The bloggers who used Zannel at the DNC were able to feed their audience real-time photos and video right from the show floor. The ability to get Howard Dean on tape in the elevator with a cell phone, and feed that directly to the Zannel community, is something not even the biggest news conglomerates were able to offer their audience. In addition, those who had the opportunity to see this near live coverage through Zannel were given a direct link back to the blogger’s personal blog, driving incremental traffic back and building visibility for the bloggers themselves. The DNC example shows that Zannel enables a real-time multimedia blogging experience for readers and followers, and benefits the bloggers themselves with the ability to upload meaningful content from anywhere, deliver it to their readers instantly and simultaneously drive traffic back to their site.

Division: Technology Innovation
Category: Mobile Media
Company: Vizu

Internet advertising is exploding. Yet much of the $20+ billion in online advertising is being invested in direct response mechanisms – search and banner promotion. A larger advertising opportunity is in brand advertising. Those advertisers remain skittish about their return-on-investment from the Internet. The challenge is to provide a system that allows marketers to advertise with confidence.

Online advertising remains an enigma – A huge industry with enviable growth expectations that remains small when compared to the Internet’s audience size and active use of the medium. The Internet’s advertising promise has always been simple – the natural feedback mechanism of a two-way communications media makes it possible for advertisers to see immediately how their advertising investment is performing, based on the goals of a direct response campaign.

Maybe the campaign is intended to lead a consumer to a promotional web site. Perhaps the ad is geared toward a direct purchase by the consumer, or maybe the ad is intended to lead a consumer to another portion of the web site. These are all easily measured by clicks, cookies and consumer behavior.

But brand advertising has always been a far larger opportunity. How do you measure the effectiveness of a brand advertisement when the goal is simply to raise the profile of a brand with consumers? How is that feedback mechanism solved on the Internet?

Brand marketers, digital agencies and publishers require a trusted technology system from a third-party to be able to deliver an effective return-on-investment story on brand advertising expenditures. They need to measure common attributes associated with brands that are not collected through just a click – purchase intent, preference and awareness, for example.

These brand advertisers also need a common metric so that they know when a campaign is successful, when an advertising initiative is faltering, and when they need to change course. Given the often short duration of online advertising campaigns, marketers also need a system that provides data everyday, in real-time. In this manner, brand advertising can become a peer to other forms of advertising on the Internet and extend the long-term health and prosperity of the online advertising industry. Vizu (www.vizu.com) is providing solutions to these issues.

The target audience for this everyday brand measurement system – called Vizu Ad Catalyst – is large publishers, digital advertising agencies and brands that want to advertise online with confidence.

These publishers and advertisers are veterans of Internet advertising from a direct response perspective – click on an ad and it takes you to a commerce site for a purchase or a related site to what you were searching for on Google. Brand advertising measurement online is a different challenge for a more sophisticated audience.

Major online publishers and networks typically use Ad Catalyst to drive sales by attracting and retaining brand advertisers at higher rates. Agencies use Ad Catalyst to make their media buying as efficient and effective as possible for their clients and to provide an advertising return-on-investment.

Vizu Ad Catalyst measures the performance of online brand advertising campaigns, using brand lift as the relevant metric rather than click-through rates, which are inappropriate for brand building campaigns. Marketers can measure return-on-investment for online brand advertising campaigns for the first time.

This is significant. Up to now, brand advertisers have been provided few tools to measure the effectiveness of their advertising investments. Through the use of Vizu Ad Catalyst, not only will publishers and advertisers gain new everyday insights into their campaigns, they will be building a powerful set of normative data that can be used to adjust and optimize future campaigns across type, industry, etc.

These best practices empower the target audience – publishers and advertisers – to allocate more of their advertising dollars online. Given the explosion of multimedia content on the Web, a measurement system for brand advertising will only provide this audience with more reason to spend money online.

Vizu Ad Catalyst was built from the ground up to serve the needs of publishers, digital advertising agencies and brand advertisers. Our intention was to build a system that could handle hundreds of campaigns and deliver a rich set of data across a wide variety of brand attributes for customers.

Rather than submit a specific customer case study, we decided to submit our system for consideration for the award. However, our system is currently in use within some of the largest digital agencies, brands and publishers in the world. Our experience with these customers can also be shared as part of consideration for this award. Some of these customers include: Burger King, Vonage, Hilton Hotels, and several brands in the Unilever family.

Having built the system, Vizu’s go-to-market strategy was simple – Prove that brand lift, as a metric for measuring online brand advertising attributes, is a better tool for marketers than simple click-through rates. Since the spring of this year, Vizu has been working with early customers to optimize campaigns and the tools we deliver to our customers.

As we head into the fall of 2008, our early success is indicative of how successful the plan has been – nearly 20 active customers running Ad Catalyst across a wide variety of campaigns, gathering data across a wide set of brand types.

Moving forward, our plan continues to be focused on expanding our feature set technologically and listening to our early customers to fine-tune our approach. In addition, we’re working feverishly to develop additional video and mobile ad measurement services as new options of our system.

Vizu Ad Catalyst uses a standard “test and control” methodology that asks a single question of consumers on a Web site about a campaign – Some have viewed the campaign and others have not. Those responses can measure the effective “lift” for several different marketing attributes from the campaign.

Vizu Ad Catalyst works with publishers and agencies to formulate the right questions and their operations team to build our system into their ad campaign. The resulting data is then presented through our online dashboard for analysis as to the effectiveness of the campaign.

The fundamental challenge of our approach is getting the industry to coalesce around the idea of brand lift as a metric for online brand advertising. Our technology – after months of vigorous beta testing – is ready and deployed across some of the largest sites on the Internet.

Vizu Ad Catalyst is built around a single flyover intercept that asks a single brand question of a respondent. This intercept feeds our database servers with data from a consumer’s response.

Vizu works with our customers, such as a publisher or agency, to deploy our everyday brand measurement system across an ad campaign. We’ve worked with numerous leading brands, such as Hilton Hotels, Unilever brands, and Burger King, just to name a few.

As discussed above, the Vizu Ad Catalyst dashboard provides a wealth of data on the relative success of the primary objective of an online ad campaign. In this manner, Vizu Ad Catalyst is building a set of best practices and normative data that will inform the online advertising industry moving forward.

Vizu Ad Catalyst was built to measure the brand lift of online ad campaigns. Our results with customers such as Hilton Hotels speak volumes as to the promise of the technology and how our results map to the objectives of our brand ad measurement system.

Division: Technology Innovation
Category: External Communications
Company: Mobility Public Relations

Goal: To create an online newsroom tool that would not only better present client newsroom material to editors, bloggers and analysts, but create a mobility industry resource where information from all our clients can be discovered using keywords and simple search features.

Mobility PR (www.mobilitypr.com) is an agency that serves only mobility technology businesses and organizations. As our agency grows, our client roster is filling out with interrelated but non-competitive businesses, where information from one may be relevant to information being sought for another. Yet typically press kits revolve around a single company or single issue and do not lend themselves to share information between kits.

In addition, company websites have brand, look and feel considerations that sometimes run counter to online newsroom best practices, not to mention that a press kit for one company has limited relevance to editors, bloggers and analysts.

The social media press kit portal has two distinct audiences: media/analysts and Mobility Public Relations clients.

The primary audience consists of editors, bloggers and analysts who seek information about our clients, but also seek information more broadly about the industries in which our clients serve.

Clients are faced with branding guidelines dictating the look and feel, layout and navigation of their corporate websites. Sometimes these guidelines run counter to a best practices approach to online press kits and newsrooms, and may also limit the ability for content to be search engine optimized. Some companies, due to resource constraints or internal bureaucracies, may not be able to keep information up-to-date or post new content in a timely fashion. Internal directives may also cause clients to post extraneous or superfluous materials that make the important press kit contents more difficult to locate.

Mobility Public Relations set out to build a press kit resource for editors, bloggers and analysts that would also become a resource for information about the mobility industry. The press kit portal needed to utilize tags to make content easy to find, and had to be easily searchable so that visitors could seek information based on topics and not based on individual clients, thereby allowing relevant results to be returned from multiple clients’ press kits. The portal and all the pages therein needed to be search engine optimized and the content needed to be easy to discover, easy to download and exist in a number of different media formats.

Utilizing the social media press kit template produced by Shift Communications as a starting point, we worked with a web design and search engine optimization company to build the press kit portal. We expanded the template to include more multimedia content and links to other online resources. The press kits have a front page portal where media and analysts can search for content across all clients, rather than look for information one client at a time. Website statistics should let us see the domains coming to the site so we can track when editors from key publications are visiting press kits.

Kosmos Central built a new search engine optimized template with the Drupal backend. We experimented with large content files to see how much we could push the new portal before it “broke.” We then created content standards so ensure that when content is posted, it was always able to properly display. For example, high resolution images (posted in 300 dots per inch) are limited to 1000 by 1000 pixels.

Once we activated the template in a subdirectory from our main site (www.mobilitypr.com/clients) we collected all the info from our clients, and worked with them to craft or update all their press kit materials to fill out the online press kits.

The biggest technical challenge was creating a content management system that was at once robust enough to handle all the various content we wanted to post and update, while at the same time be easy enough for everyone in our agency to use with minimal training. We also wanted to make the page load quickly and therefore needed a thumbnail system for larger high-resolution images. We also wanted to minimize the number of clicks necessary for media and analysts to download the content they wanted to their local hard drives.

The other challenge was that we were in essence building competing press kits to the online newsrooms our clients had on their websites. However, as our clients saw that we were consolidating all the relevant materials from multiple sources, and organizing them in a way that would be familiar to any reporter visiting our portal, they soon began to rely on our press kit portal, linking to it from their corporate websites, and even from their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.

We worked with Portland, Oregon-based Kosmos Central, a marketing, web design and SEO firm to build the portal. Kosmos improved the SEO of the social media press kit template by eliminating the use of frames. They used the open source Drupal CMS as the fundamental underpinning for the portal’s content management., making it super easy for content to posted and updated. Kosmos added additional bells and whistles, such as high resolution “reveal” when thumbnails are clicked by press kit visitors. Once the high res image is displayed, it’s a simple right click to save.

Once an online press kit is built for the client and added to the press kit portal, the team lead for each client account is responsible for updating the press kit in real time with news announcements, new images or photos, new links and any other relevant content. As a group, the agency leads review the content on all client press kits looking for trends that are emerging or being demonstrated through client news and coverage. These trends are then packaged for reporters and offered up as complete stories, leveraging the MoPR clients (and the online press kit resources) as the proof points for the story.

Eight social media press kits have been visited by over 4,000 unique visitors since January 1, 2008, and the press kit portal page has been visited by 1,755 unique visitors during that same period of time. Mobility PR has received positive comments from several key editors and bloggers, and several have noted that we have the only press kit resource like this that they’ve seen – and the only one we at Mobility PR has been able to find online. When entering our client names plus the word “press” into Google, our social media press kit for each client appears in the first ten results, often in the top three results. Mobility PR has received positive comments from several key editors and bloggers, and several have noted that we have the only press kit resource like this that they’ve seen – and the only one we at Mobility PR has been able to find online.

Division: Technology Innovation
Category: External Communications
Company: Nanos Research

There is a need for a better way to engage citizens in municipal government decision-making.

Municipalities deliver a wide range of services that touch upon the daily lives of citizens. Roads, sewers, parks, waste services, and policing are municipal services that have an immediate impact on the welfare of citizens. As the provider of these basic civic services, municipalities are constantly seeking public input into decisions about the delivery and direction of these services.

Traditionally, cities have gathered public input on municipal issues by means of surveys, focus groups and town halls/public consultations. While effective, these tools are open to challenge by opponents of unpopular decisions. While surveys and focus groups offer a defensible methodology, they are open to public criticism for not providing all citizens with the opportunity to voice their concerns. While town halls provide an opportunity for all to voice their opinion, their practice is often characterized by poor attendance and a lack of quantitative reporting and analysis.

The communications issue to be addressed is helping cities inform citizens and engage them in public consultations about multi-faceted issues in a manner that is easy to use, widely accessible and provides demonstrable results to municipal decision-makers.

The second issue to be addressed is the need to improve the effectiveness of municipal government websites at engaging citizens in decision-making. To date, most municipalities have relied on the Internet for information posting and transactional services. The widespread adoption of web 2.0 technologies has allowed cities to extend their online services into the realm of public engagement and help respond to the shortcomings of current municipal approaches to public consultation. Nanos has developed an online solution that allows governments to engage citizens online using web 2.0 methodologies (blogs, content rating, user-generated content, video).

The primary target audience is residents of cities eligible to vote. A secondary target audience is comprised of residents who are disconnected from the political processes at the municipal level.

The goals and objectives of the solution are to:
i) complement and extend existing municipal public consultation and engagement practices;
ii) make it easy for busy citizens to participate in public consultations;
iii) bring a methodological rigor to the analysis and reporting of public consultations;
iv) harness the power of user-generated content to develop responses to local issues and needs; and
v) cost-effectively engage thousands of citizens in municipal decision making.

Nanos (www.nanosresearch.com) is a leading North American public opinion research firm that has extensive experience in structuring and operating public consultations. Given its research focus, Nanos is called upon to bring a methodological structure and approach to public consultations by governments and public bodies. In doing so, Nanos came to notice an increase in respondents’ willingness to participate in online research combined with client requests for online research services. These forces were compounded by Nanos’ public opinion research which showed a growing public disenchantment with current forms of democratic participation and a citizen appetite for a more direct involvement in public decision making.

In response to these emerging trends, Nanos developed an online consultation service – Nanos eConsultation – that would meet the rigorous needs of clients and answer the demands of citizens for more accessible public engagement.

Nanos developed, tested and refined the online consultation application over a nine-month period. A team of developers and researchers was brought together to identify and design a solution that would meet the needs of public-facing organizations. Given the widespread use and familiarity of blogs, the team chose to go with a service that combined blogging with discussion forums, all underpinned by the ability to track and measure activity using established research metrics. The beta version was tested using a control group and changes were made based on participant feedback.

Once a working version was finalized, a marketing plan was developed that focused on securing a public-facing organization seeking to engage stakeholders over a broad geographic area. Over time, Nanos came to realize that the tool was of significant benefit to local and municipal organizations and began to market to municipalities. Nanos eConsultation is offered as a stand-alone software service or as a complete online consultation service (turnkey). The deployment scenario described herein is based on the use of Nanos eConsultation as a complete online consultation service.

The process begins by working with the client to identify the consultation objectives and to learn about the client’s overall consultation strategy. The online consultation is always framed as a complement to the in-person strategy, providing participants with the ability to participate in a manner that meets their needs. The client provides the initial draft of the consultation materials (topics and supporting documents) and then Nanos edits and formats these for posting to the web. The final set-up involves building the eConsultation microsite using client-supplied digital files.

Participants access the eConsultation microsite from the municipality’s website. At the eConsultation, participants are able to read topics, rate topics and post comments in response to topics. Participants are also able to respond to other participant comments, rate the comments, view support materials (maps, links to third party websites, PDF documents, images) and rate support materials (informative, non-informative, influence your opinion or not influence your opinion).

The eConsultation site creates a demographic profile of each participant, tracks all participant activity (topic reading, comment reading, topic rating, comment rating, support material reading and support material rating) in order to tabulate and prepare detailed consultation reports. The reports provide a demographic and geographic profile of participation as well as ratings and readings of user-generated content.

The principle challenge was the need to address initial client concern about inappropriate content being posted to the eConsultation microsite, being run as a municipal service. Nanos developed a user-generated flagging system that provided all participants with the ability to flag comments that they deemed as inappropriate. A notification is sent to the moderator who is able to instantly access the comment and address its context, and take appropriate corrective action (warning to the commentor, editing the comment, suspending the commenter). Nanos also provides a “hands-on” moderation service that involves a daily period of site review. In operating the consultations we have found that the user-generated flagging method has proven to be very effective at addressing inappropriate activity on the consultation sites.

The second challenge involved ensuring that the online consultation experience was able to accommodate unforeseen views or issues. Our experience with consultation has revealed that people often have an issue or concern that they feel is not being addressed by the formal consultation. Failure to address this concern, if shared by a broad enough constituency, will often adversely affect the consultation process. In response to this challenge and the user-generated content ethos of web 2.0, Nanos created a “Share your Ideas” section where participants can post their own thoughts and ideas, respond to other participant comments and rate them. This approach helps identify and quantify hidden/latent issues and concerns and innovative solutions to the issues being considered.
An on-going challenge involves working with the clients to ensure that the consultation sites would be appropriately marketed and promoted on their public website.

Nanos eConsultation is a turnkey online consultation service that uses proprietary software based on public opinion research metrics and web 2.0 methodologies to operate public consultations for municipalities and government departments and agencies. The Nanos eConsultation service is comprised of building a microsite that duplicates the client website, editing and posting the content to the consultation microsite, and operating the public site.

The team is comprised of:
i) a senior researcher who also serves as the project manager;
ii) a consultation moderator;
iii) a research analyst (usually two) responsible for coding and tabulation of the data;
iv) an account representative who manages interaction with the client on matters related to project scope; and
v) a technical lead who manages site set-up and any technical customizations in response to client requests.

Nanos has operated three online public consultations for a Canadian municipality with just over 800,000 residents. Each of these consultations has lasted from 2 to 4 weeks in duration. There have been 128,843 site visits. Eight hundred participants have registered to post 3,458 comments. In total 59,417 user-generated comments have been read and 9,156 comments have been rated.

On a general level, the overall quantitative measures of success are:
* increased public participation in public consultations;
* improved quantitative reporting of consultation participant activity and overall consultation activity (number of participants, comments, comment ratings, comment readings, breakdown of participation by geographic area);
* reduced cost of engaging citizens on a per participant basis.

The qualitative measures of success are:
* improved client understanding of public attitudes and opinions;
* increased public satisfaction with consultation processes;
* increased media satisfaction with consultation processes;
* increase in decision-maker confidence in the consultation process and advice resulting from the consultation process;
* increase in client’s municipal staff confidence in consultation results.

Nanos eConsultation helps its clients achieve the following objectives:
i) complement and extend existing municipal public consultation and engagement practices;
ii) make it easy for busy citizens to participate in public conversations, thereby increasing public satisfaction with the consultation process;
iii) the ability to track and report on data using a quantitative methodology brought a methodological rigor to the analysis and reporting of public consultations;
iv) user-generated responses to local issues and needs were harvested from the consultation inputs and were used to identify unforeseen attitudes and opinions;
v) the ability to participate online significantly increased the participation and thereby cost-effectively engaged thousands of citizens in municipal decision making.