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Does Targeted Advertising Work? My campaign to earn one click

August 12, 2013 // Posted in Marketing, Security, Software (Tags: ) |  2 Comments

I recently became more interested in the world of marketing.  As such, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the nuts and bolts of targeted advertisement.  As an experiment to see if targeted advertisement works, I started a project to get one specific person, and only that person, to click on a banner ad placed in Facebook.  I spent a Sunday afternoon fixing a motorcycle in my garage, while meditating on who I would advertise to, and how.

One of my concerns was that I didn’t know who was using ad-blocking software and who wasn’t.  I also didn’t want to invest in a micro-campaign if it wouldn’t give me results.  I thought about posting an ad to one of my motorcycling companions, or perhaps a relative.  I finally decided on my buddy Zach Huntting (AKA Zapan.)

Zach and I have been friends for a little over 10 years.  We toured and performed together as part of the Fourthcity Laptop Battles, of which he was a founding member.  Back in the day, I would tag along with him and help out with midnight wheatpasting campaigns for our shows.  This resulted in several events sold to capacity, with lines stretching around the block.

Since then, Zach went on to get an MBA from the University Of Washington, and started his own social marketing firm called Crown Social.  I figured that if there was anyone who wouldn’t be using an ad-blocker, it would be the guy that works in social advertisement.  I opened his Facebook page in one tab, and the Facebook Ad Manager in another and started to build my campaign.


Setting up an ad campaign in Facebook took me less than an hour.  I first created a page called “Hey Zapan At Crown Social” that included a photo of him that I pulled off the web.  The thinking was that if I saw a picture of myself in an ad, along with a title that called me out by my nickname and my place of work, accompanied by a personal note from a friend, it would grab my attention and I’d click on it.

One of the neat things about Facebook is that they allow you to see the number of people in your target audience as you construct your ad.  I found that one of the limitations is that they won’t tell you the exact audience number of people in your target audience if the list is fewer than 20 people.  Even if the target audience is zero, it will still say fewer than 20.

I also had another issue including Crown Social as a place of work for my target audience.  My guess is that the company doesn’t have enough employees yet to show up on Facebook’s radar.  As such I added Wunderman to the list since it was in Zach’s work history.  The UI for the Ad Manager made it unclear about whether my ad would be targeted at people actively working at Wunderman or people who included Wunderman in their work history.  If there were no click-throughs in a few hours, I’d fine tune my ad a bit more.  Facebook’s pricing was also a bit nebulous, as it didn’t give much information about the going rates for different types of ads.


ad_preview_02Eight hours after posting the initial ad, I only had one unique visitor to the page, and I was pretty sure that it was myself.  I saw that Zach had been actively posting on Facebook earlier in the day without noticing the ad, so I decided to change the definition of my target audience a bit.  I removed Wunderman, Decibel Festival and the University Of Washington, and instead focused on people who attended Waseda University in Japan and were also fans of the video game Hawken, a client of Crown Social.  I figured that there could be only one person like that in Seattle.

Two hours later, Zach posted to my ad page, calling it both hilarious and brilliant!  In a total of 10 hours, I had successfully launched and completed my mini-campaign.


Metrix Create:Space + EEG Quadrocopter!

November 17, 2010 // Posted in Gaming, iPhone stuff, Security, Software  |  1 Comment

This past Sunday I was working on an EEG controlled AR Drone quadrocopter with my friend Andrew when the editor for the Metrix Create:Space blog decided to do an article about us.  You can read the article here.  The gentleman wearing the EEG headset in the article is Ian Gallagher (one of the authors of Firesheep) who happened to stop by and check out what we were working on.

You can find out more about the Neurosky Mindset here.

Here is some video of an early AR Drone test flight.

AR.Drone Test Flight at Metrix Create:Space from Andrew Becherer on Vimeo.

Text-to-movie: Storyboard of the future?

February 6, 2010 // Posted in Audio Software, General, Software, Visualization  |  No Comments

Text-to-speech systems have been in development for a very long time.  One that I use frequently for creating placeholder dialog in games is the AT&T Labs Natural Voices text-to-speech demo.  It’s a free service that enables the user to type out any phrase and then download an audio file with that phrase spoken by any number of synthesized accents.  For the most part they sound very realistic!  The only caveat is that some words need to be spelled phonetically to translate well.

So it was with great pleasure that I discovered the website Xtranormal has a web-based procedurally generated storyboard application as well as a downloadable version.  I’ve attached my first text-to-video project as an example.  It’s a parody of Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Here is my source.  Note the icons that were dragged and dropped into the script to trigger animations, camera positions, facial expressions and even a sound effect!

2010_script What I like about this software is that it makes the process of concepting film very easy, and allows for the rapid expression of ideas.  Video is rendered within the browser as well!

There are a few bugs that they still need to work out, but I’d imagine that they will fix them soon.  If you move the mouse too much while editing in the browser, it will reset your project and there are some issues with formatting video during the publishing process.  Overall, this is a fun and useful set of tools for kids and professionals alike.

What you see is what you hear: Pulp Fiction remixed

November 1, 2009 // Posted in Audio Software, Culture, Software, Visualization  |  No Comments

In the past two years or so, we’ve been seeing more and more videos where people sample video and audio in combination and sequence them in interesting ways.

This most recent video however, takes a very new approach.  Using Pulp Fiction as source material, the editor of this video created a 6 part montage of sound effects and musical samples from the film to build a new experience.  The brilliance of this is that by taking source material that is familiar to us all, the technique becomes accessible.

Considering that people enjoy making these vid-sequences and their popularity is growing, I’d imagine that we will begin to see apps that make the process of creating these videos fun and easy.

[link from Urlesque]

Google Audio: Searching for the right words

July 6, 2009 // Posted in Audio Software, Culture, Gaming, General, iPhone stuff, Software, Uncategorized (Tags: , , , , , ) |  No Comments

Back in February I wrote about search engines with speech recognition capabilities. Now Google has gotten into the mix with Google Audio Indexing.  Google Audio Indexing is an extension of their Speech Recognition group.

There are two big questions being addressed here. What information can be extracted from millions of hours of audio and how can that information be applied?


Generally speaking, the analysis of speech recognition consists of the following.

  • the topic(s) being discussed
  • the identities of the speaker(s)
  • the genders of the speakers
  • the emotional character of the speech
  • the amount and locations of speech versus non-speech (e.g. background noise or silence)

Speech is not the only data that can be extracted from uploaded video.  Music has tempo, key, lyrics, timbre, instrumentation and much more.  The search for sound effect reference material in web video is also currently limited by titles and keywords manually attached to videos.


Captions are not available

Captions are not available

Imagine that you’re hearing impaired but would like to watch and understand political speeches posted to YouTube.  By using automated speech recognition in combination with closed captions, any spoken word video posted to YouTube would always be accessable to you.

Imagine that there is a video in a language not familar to you that you’d like to understand.  Speech recognition combined with a translation service like BabelFish could help to bridge cultures worldwide.  For people who are also blind, this could also be combined with speech synthesis feature for even greater accessability.

Imagine that you’re a business that wants to track the emotions of people uploading videos mentioning your product.

Imagine that you’re a Karaoke lover who has stage fright and wants to practice at home.  Extracting lyrics from music videos and automatically adding them as closed captions would be a welcome feature to you.  This might not be possible with “Louie Louie” but would be useful for everything else.

Imagine that you’re a DJ looking for the perfect track to mix.  Being able to search for musical content with video according to key and tempo would be hugely valuable to you.  This could be accomplished by combining MixMeister’s functionality with Google Audio.  MixMeister extracts tempo and key from music libraries.

Imagine that you’re a musician looking to compose new music from sampled clips.  Music search tools would be hugely useful to you as well. is a website which presents videos composed in the same key.  Kutiman is a musician who composes new songs from uploaded video clips.  These are the sorts of projects that could be made using tempo and key detection in Google Audio.  See a sample of Kutiman’s work below.

Imagine that you’re a part of the largest search engine company in the world and want to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  What other features would you add?


With user generated content becoming the cornerstone of interactive media, tools and methods for parsing vast amounts of data will be essential.  Speech recognition will be a huge part of this.  Google is now working very hard at developing and refining their speech algorithms and is releasing multiple products to support this effort.  Here are a few examples of this.

Google Audio Indexing – Search through the audio content in web video.  Currently Google Audio Indexing is exclusive to the political channel of YouTube.

Google 411 – Google 411 is a voice activated search engine that can be dialed from any phone.

Google Mobile – Google Mobile has a built in speech recognition feature which is much faster than typing a search on a tiny touchscreen.

Google Voice – Google Voice is designed to consolidate phone numbers and also includes transcription services for voice mail.

As evidenced by a recent test by the New York Times, Google has a way to go before their algorithms are perfected.  Nonetheless, they are on the right track and have displayed a consistancy in their interest to develop speech recognition.

– Adam Smith-Kipnis