Big Yellow Brand Bus

Well, it happenned. Yesterday a two-year-old referred to the canned beverages that we were drinking as "Cokes". Obviously the little guy's brand knowledge has been growing steadily over the last 24 months. We know that he is more than acquainted with Elmo, Barney, Thomas The Tank Engine, Pooh and of course the Bob The Builder. He sings the PBS Kids four syllable jingle. He even calls the Disney Store, "Mickey Mouse's house".
At first blush, it makes sense. Brands consist of meaning and associations and for a two-year old the likes of Barney and the Wiggles are exceedingly meaningful. But how much is too much...and too much too soon?
Until the "Coke" episode, we had consciously invited a handful of brands into this person's daily life. What is a parent to do, however, when commercial brands are thrust upon thier kids lives? Today it was announced that the Marion County school district (Florida) is set to consider placing paid advertising on its school buses to subsidize the school system. And we thought that placing ads on police cars was suspect!
If McLuhan is right, and "the medium is the message" then what is the message that we are sending to kids who have brand names plastered on the school buses?

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Mirco-surveys Are On The Horizon

The hardest product to sell?
Try selling an early morning Biology 101 class to 300 Freshman.
UMass has implemented a "personal response system" this year that ensures that students are not only attending lectures, but also that its professors are "connecting" with the bodies filling the seats.
At the beginning of the semester, UMass required its students to pay $36 for a small, wireless handheld transmitter that is supposed to facilitate more immediate feedback and question answering:

To connect with students in vast auditoriums, professors sprinkle multiple-choice questions through their lectures. Students point and click their transmitters to answer, pushing blue buttons numbered 1 through 9 on their keypads. A bar graph appears on the professor's laptop, showing the number of right and wrong answers; teachers can slow down or backtrack when there are too many wrong answers.
There is one major downside, at least for students. The transmitters are registered and assigned a number, so it's possible to keep track of who is showing up and who is skipping class. As we dimly recall from our raucous university days, one of the few upsides to taking one of those huge lecture courses with 800 people in them is that you're able to miss a class and remain unnoticed.
One has to wonder about the value that an 800-student survey class delivers. However, learning-environment aside, this micro-surveying method is an interesting development both for higher education and beyond.
With the advent of broadband and Wi-Fi, expect to see micro-surveying evolve from the classroom to the livingroom and beyond. In the living room, we have already seen micro-surveying taking place via Tivo's "thumbs up/down" preferences. Invariably, this information will be packaged, sold and shipped off to media companies in aggregate...and in real time. Could this be the end of pilot screenings? Furthermore, expect to see advertising change with the advent of micro-surveys. Web-enabled, and Wi-Fi compatible phones will be a marketer's dream, allowing media to be measured on the basis of effectiveness rather than awareness/impressions.
Not to get too sci-fi, but imagine a billboard with an offer for a local business. The billboard prompts interested passers-by to dial a number or hit a website to take advantage of a special offer. People with cell-phones call in or log in, get their digital 'coupon' and redeem it at the nearest retail location...which happens to be within a two block radius. But then again, the coupon-collector knows this..because walking/driving directions were piped to their GPS-enabled phone.
We can even take this hypothetical one step further. what if, all Nextel customers were real-time, research respondents. They would be paid for their opinions on various topics--piped directly to their cell phones. You are walking by a wi-fi billboard and the advertising wants to know what you think. Presto. A survey question pops up on their web-enabled cell phone. You give it a "four" on a one to five scale, keep going about your business and receive a $5 payment via Paypal. Or perhaps, you pass a billboard and, five minutes later, receive an awareness or purchase intent question via your phone. Finally, to make it really interesting, what if the billboard consisted of "smart paper" and it changed its message throughout the day...and measured each message's effectiveness?
We agree that it does sound a bit far-fetched, but we think that this is a scenario that is just around the corner...and one that drastically changes the way advertising is tested and marketing programs are implemented. In short, it doesn't bode well for the mall-intercept facilities around the nation. In the long-run micro-surveys will enable the agile marketer to act locally and succeed globally.

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School Dazed: The micro-memoir of a summer school teacher

Today the San Francisco Chronicle published this interesting and entertaining first person account of what it is like to be a teacher today. If only all teachers could have a similar sense of humor about the current plight of American educators. (Thanks Metafilter)

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