Monthly Archives: December 2014

At 20 Years Old, PlayStation Continues to Capture the Market

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For those of you that can remember, or have grown up alongside it, you might be aware that PlayStation celebrated its 20th anniversary last week, and how it’s flown by. Gaming as a category has evolved decade on decade, and is forecast to continue growing. Yet some brands have died before they even started: remember Gizmondo and its flagship store with no stock on Regent Street?

Gaming, like no other category, must work hand in hand with 3rd parties to survive and innovate. While you could argue that TV needs content and cinemas need film, together the gaming industry innovates by collaborative choices. At the heart of this is the consumer.

Fads come and go as dictated by the users, just look at those Wii Balance Boards cluttering up garages and car boot sales. If it’s not generational, it doesn’t work. Above the age of 12, who wants to play games with Mum and Dad? Yet for how many years have you and your friends played Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, and above all honed your skills to better your peers?

Console manufacturers try to push some innovations. Look at Microsoft’s Kinect – while the innovation itself is impressive, the system is largely ignored by developers. With the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft tried to make Kinect an integral part of their console experience, but failed to engage users and developers alike. Motion tracking and voice control are yet more fads – what the gamers want is genuine innovation.

20 years in, creating a category is amazing in technology terms. VCR, Walkman and the like are all categories that have died and were replaced by more sophisticated technology which met consumer demands and changing lifestyles. Developers know this, console manufacturers are painfully aware of this, and when you’re products are reliant on one another, which innovation drives the other?

The Wii worked because it brought something entirely new to the scene and opened up a new generation to console gaming. This whirlwind success will not be replicated until manufacturers develop truly innovative ideas that revolutionise the console market.

VR could be the next revolutionary innovation that will take the console market by storm. It has the potential, but will it capture the imagination of consumers? As we can see from Nintendo’s falling profits in recent years, the gaming market is fickle and even whirlwind success will eventually die down.

Sky have just announced a number of Virtual Reality trials on up to fifteen shows in 2015. Perhaps a vested interest is at play here, but is VR where gaming and entertainment collide? We can already see evidence of games consoles developing into multimedia centres in the PS4 and Xbox One. Will VR be the next step in this development?

I suspect that in 20 years’ time PlayStation as a brand will still be going strong, perhaps as a console linked to a VR device. But at this point, who’ll be creating the content: gaming developers or actors and producers? With Remedy Entertainment’s upcoming title Quantum Break, which promises to blur the lines between television and gaming by allowing gamers to shape a personalised version of a linked television show. Could this represent the future of the entertainment industry?


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Top 10 Gadgets for Christmas

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Daniel Todaro chooses his Top 10 gadgets for Christmas that can improve consumers’ day-to-day lives

Entertainment: EchoStar HDT-610R
The EchoStar Freeview+ box has an ultra-thin design at a mere 14mm deep, making it one of the most compact and stylish Freeview boxes on the market. Nonetheless, it manages to pack in a 500GB hard drive to store recorded TV. It also boasts two tuners to enable two TV channels to be recorded simultaneously. It has a simple and intuitive interface and menu, with excellent audio/video quality.


Spring Cleaning: Kärcher SC1.020
multipurpose steam cleaner
The Kärcher SC1.020 is the best-selling steam cleaner on the market at present, which is significant given the popularity of such products at the moment. It easily cleans a variety of different surfaces, including tiles and laminate flooring, eliminating the need for an extensive range of specialist cleaning products.
Kitchen: Samsung Chef Collection dishwasher
Instead of the rotating arms found in other dishwashers, Samsung’s unique feature is its ‘Water Wall’ technology, which uses a line of spray jets that reach every corner of the machine. No more of those missed spots that often mean having to put things back in for a second wash.
Printer: Epson EcoTank
Without doubt the main attraction of the EcoTank is that rather than refilling it with costly ink cartridges, the EcoTank has four built-in ink reservoirs that can be refilled from replacement ink bottles. This is not only a much cheaper alternative, saving up to 65 per cent on printing costs, but it also lasts longer than conventional ink cartridges without sacrificing print quality.
Audio: Beats by Dre – Alexander Wang edition
Designer Alexander Wang has become the latest designer to collaborate with the Beats by Dre team. Together, they’ve created a pale gold and matt black Pill speaker with a signature printed glossy ‘stingray’ case with zipper and clip. The Pill is lightweight, portable, and wireless-enabled, meaning you can change tracks from your phone or take a call with Bluetooth conferencing.
E-reader: Kobo Aura H2O
The latest product from the Canadian manufacturer boasts an impressive 265 pixels per inch, which beats rival product the Kindle Paperweight, providing a much clearer, larger paper-like screen. It is, however, a little heavier than the Kindle. Perhaps its most useful feature is that it’s waterproof.
Fitness: Fitbit Charge
One of the latest of Fitbit’s new products, the Fitbit Charge, which will be out in December, is a significant step up from its best-selling Flex model. Like the Flex, Charge takes the form of a wristband that monitors all-day activity, tracking steps, distance, calories burned, steps climbed and minutes the wearer has been active each day. Similarly, it also monitors the length and quality of sleep. It might lack the GPS functions of other products in Fitbit’s new range, but it’s still a great gadget for anyone looking to keep trim over the New Year.
Connected Home: Hive Smart Thermostat
Hive is a simple-to-use device that enables cost-conscious consumers to have full control over their heating. By being able to remotely control heating from anywhere with an internet connection or 3G, people can save up to £150 a year on their heating bills by only having the heating on when it’s needed, rather than on a fixed schedule. The price even includes the setting-up of the device, so factoring in potential savings, there’s few reasons not to invest in one this Christmas.
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Family: Samsung WW9000 10kg Ecobubble washing machine
The Samsung WW9000 Ecobubble is a top-of-the-range washing machine – and you get an awful lot of washing machine for the money. Growing families with a lot of washing will benefit from a number of time- and money-saving features. Its touch-screen takes the place of the complicated array of buttons you find on some washing machines and its customisable settings can be set as favourites, meaning you can start a wash within seconds of loading the drum.
Smartphone: Apple iPhone 6 Plus
The sleek new design with a crisp display far exceeds what the competition can offer. IPS Retina HD technology is the cutting edge of phone design.The quality of the display is as good as a MacBook Pro.The display is also less saturated than other similar phones, producing deeper, darker colours and sharper text. The battery life is also excellent, especially given its size, and can easily be used for a full day without the need to recharge. It’s the best iPhone to date.



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How the Christmas ads fared on social

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For this year’s Christmas ads we’ve had the lot. Almost every major retailer has now released their ads, laying out their stall for what they can offer consumers this Christmas.

These have been closely followed by an onslaught of social media reviews, some good, some not so good.

Firstly, let’s take a look at Sainsbury’s which has become possibly the most debated Christmas advert of all time. Some love it, some loath it.

Twitter is ablaze with #sainsburyschristmas conversation. Some love it for its cinematography and poignant message for the 100th anniversary of First World War, appreciating that the retailer is donating to the Royal British Legion.

While others are angry with Sainsbury’s depiction of the war, feeling that they are glamorising it and using the conflict to advertise their products.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the advert has already had a lot of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency (more than 700 at the moment), most mentioning the distasteful portrayal of the First World War.

Yet love it or hate it, you’re not likely to forget Sainsbury’s contribution any time soon.

We move on to Iceland, which is possibly the worst Christmas advert I’ve ever seen. It is almost indistinguishable from its normal advert except it mentions some Christmassy food.

As far as social media goes, Iceland’s twitter post for the advert was retweeted an unremarkable three times (the account has more than 16k followers). Likewise, the advert’s uninspiring hashtag #icelandchristmasad has only been used by Iceland themselves. It also only has just over 400 likes on Facebook, compared to the Sainsbury’s advert’s 126,000 likes. Yes, the advert is that forgettable.

On the other end of the spectrum Boots‘ Christmas advert does emotional advertising right. Rather than relying on an animated penguin for emotional support, the advert concentrates on the importance of family, something we should all focus on at this time of year.

Social media users love it too, with many feeling moved and especially enjoying the connection to the NHS:

Boots’ simple #specialbecause hashtag is perfect for sentimentality during the Christmas period. It’s not an especially flashy advert, and is therefore somewhat underrated, but it has resonated with a lot of people, and that’s what makes it so great.

Then there is Tesco’s ad. Although it is well-produced with the right message, this year’s offering leaves me a little disappointed. The advert’s light show is fantastic, undoubtedly the best light show since the Olympics. But, in comparison to John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, this is a little mundane.

The Twittersphere seems equally unimpressed, with many finding the ad uninspiring and even unnecessarily expensive:

Although Tesco’s Facebook is very popular, and the ad has tens of thousands of likes, even the comments section of the ad post is filled more with customer complaints than it is of genuine praise.

Even more unfortunately for Tesco, its hashtag #makechristmas was also used by Irish retail chain Dunne Stores. As a result, Twitter has an odd mix of both brands.

Now to Aldi, and though I quite like the concept of this advert, I think it’s poorly executed. Showing how Christmas is celebrated in different walks of life could make a great ad, but Aldi’s offering simply pans the camera over a number of different groups eating and drinking. The script is also dire, with lines sounding extremely scripted. Moreover, Jools Holland’s random cameo appearance at the end is extremely odd; why not use him more during the ad? Yet he seems to be the major attraction for many on Twitter and Facebook:

Although an unsophisticated offering, many people seem to love it. Perhaps Aldi’s simple, budget orientated ad is the right message for this year. And whatever you say about it, the Aldi advert probably has the truest slogan of any advert this Christmas – ‘everyone’s coming to us this Christmas’.

The Lidl advert achieves exactly what the retailer wanted to achieve. Continuing its #lidlsuprises campaign, the ad does away with the cinematic offerings of its competitors, and instead focuses on the products. I think the blind taste test was a clever idea, really highlighting how Lidl products aren’t as budget quality as people think. This also seems to have reflected well amongst Lidl’s Twitter followers:

However, it’ll take more than an advert to convince some consumers that Lidl products are on par with their competitors:

While it is a good advert and puts the right message across, I can’t help but think it’s not that Christmassy. Other ads like Sainsbury’s and John Lewis have a distinct Christmassy feel, but Lidl’s is simply a Christmas branded extension of its existing ad. It does the right job, but it doesn’t have appeal of the more cinematic ads at this time of year.

By far the most engaging ad this year has been the Halfords ad – it’s supposed to provoke feelings of nostalgia and it does it really well. The ad could easily be set in any decade from the 1970’s onwards which makes it so appealing to a broad audience. The ad wants you to remember that seminal moment of getting your own bike as a child, and ultimately share this experience with your kids. Those using #nothingbeatsabike on Twitter seems to agree:

This has to be my favourite Christmas ad; it does everything right. You might prefer the cinematic masterpieces of the likes of Sainsbury’s, but for me the simple nostalgia of a new bike is as Christmassy as it gets.

Last but not least we have the now famous John Lewis Monty the Penguin ad. There is little more to be said about the overexposed ad apart from the inevitable parodies which were released over the past few weeks, of which there are surprisingly many.


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This Year’s Best Christmas ATL?

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For this year’s Christmas ads, we’ve had the lot, as more or less every major retailer has now released their ads and laid out their stall for what they can offer consumers this Christmas. We’ve had John Lewis’ CGI/stuffed penguin, M&S’ Christmas fairies, Tesco shining a light on community spirit, surprises from Lidl, Aldi’s hogmanay featuring Jools Holland and now Sainsbury’s topical war-themed incentive to buy and share chocolate.

They’ve been met with differing reactions. The initial response on social media to Sainsbury’s advert was positive, though subsequent analysis in the press has been less warm, with The Guardian criticising the supermarket for co-opting an awful period in history for commercial gain. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a strong, top-quality advert. Meanwhile, the M&S’ ad featured a touching point in the style of a Richard Curtis/Love Actually ‘if only’ Christmas message. While John Lewis’ attempt to repeat the success of its The Bear and the Hare advert has again relied on a lot of sentimentality and presented no products (besides the £95 toy penguin), it still exhibited good brand tie-ups and extensions on social media and in-store. The campaign is still a game-changer that others will certainly emulate. Tesco – amid its well-publicised financial issues – has gone with a comparatively paired down ad, featuring people in the community gathering for a light show. It makes sense for them to focus on community spirit and amplify the affection some may still have for the brand rather than centering around products or special offers (which discount supermarkets might well beat on price).

Among the hype and chatter, there’s one advert I feel has gone unnoticed and, for me, represents the best ATL activity this Christmas. Halfords, in partnership with Mother London, has produced a great advert which, unlike the others, places nostalgia, not sentimentality, at the centre of the ad. With a powerful Cairobi soundtrack, the ad focuses on what Christmas is all about these days, not forgetting its religious significance for Christians. It’s about kids and the rite of passage, those seminal moments Christmas throws up, such as the feeling of getting your first bike – along with the feelings of freedom and independence (not to mention coolness) that it evokes. Most of us will have memories of taking off the training wheels and being able to get away from homework to cycle to the park or the BMX track and experience freedom.

It’ll be interesting to see what such an evocative ad does for Halfords’ sales, especially given that it’s taken less high profile spots on TV compared to other brands. Like a pair of well-pumped up tires, it’d be nice to see this ad go the distance and resonate with consumers, who may agree with me that, by placing nostalgia and excitement at the centre of its ad, Halfords has won Christmas this year.



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