The Daddy Daughter Podcast!

Since I moved to Atlanta, I’ve been faced with a challenging new reality: the morning and afternoon commute. Make no mistake, it ain’t particularly fun. Well, let me back up. It *wasn’t* particularly fun. When I first began my morning ritual a couple of years ago, it was quite a shock going from a 10 minute drive along the ocean into work every morning to the soul-crushing shuttle back and forth between Buckhead and the suburbs of East Cobb. However, I quickly discovered that the 30-45 minutes every morning and afternoon that I spent in quiet contemplation could be augmented by listening to audio books (a favorite of mine) and something that I hadn’t really spent a great deal of time with prior to moving to Atlanta and that’s podcasts. Don’t get me wrong, I was WELL aware that geek culture thrived within the podcasting community but I had just never literally had the time to sit down and listen to 30-45 minutes of talk in one sitting. Well… until now that is.

So I quickly dove in and began devouring podcasts. Of course the first ones on my radar were the Smodcast and Nerdist properties and I quickly realized why I had been a lifelong Kevin Smith fan. I love his particular brand of humor, and I had LONG been a fan of his speaking engagements and his legendary storytelling skills (If you haven’t heard the story of “Superman and the Giant Spider” then I would suggest that you stop what you’re doing right now and go give it a listen) and it was great to hear that enthusiasm and raw energy carried over into his podcasting endeavors.

The thing that stood out though (and one of the reasons why Kevin’s such a great guy) is how sincere he is, and continues to be, about his roots and about how easy creativity is from his view. He’s always been a scrappy creative, legendarily self-funding his first creative effort, 1994′s “Clerks” and his podcasting was no different. He regularly encourages his audience to get out there and try it too by reinforcing the notion that he’s no different from anyone else, he’s just got something to say and all he needs is a platform and a microphone and he’ll tell you what he thinks. Who wouldn’t be inspired by that?

I certainly was. I eventually realized that I had been bitten by the bug. I wanted to try podcasting too.

Of COURSE, I immediately began thinking of what my comic book podcast would be about. After all, what else was I going to talk about? I love comics, I can talk about comics until the cows come home, and let’s be honest, there’s not THAT many compelling podcasts about comics (trust me on this one, I’ve listened to them all). Simultaneously, at work, we had begun talking about content creation and I had naturally advocated for podcasting, and so we purchased a sort of “starter kit” of podcasting equipment: a mixer, a couple of microphones, etc. and were off to the races. Of course, like any well-meaning internal effort, it didn’t get the immediate traction I had hoped, but I still wanted to pursue it, so I grabbed all the equipment and put it in my car to take to the house to play around with.

That was when my daughter saw it.

“What’s that?”, she asked. Being an 8-year old girl who immerses herself in play that revolves around singing and being a “rock star” and “starting a band”, she was immediately drawn to the microphones. When I explained what they were for, and what a podcast was, she didn’t waste a minute. “Can we podcast?”. It was like being struck by lightening. “Of course we can! That’s a great idea!”.

The Daddy Daughter Podcast was born.

After a couple of starts and stops where we had to get past the notion that you just sit down and spit out a podcast, we were becoming comfortable with the hardware and software. I spent an hour or so on Lynda.com getting an overview of Garage Band, read a couple of websites about producing podcasts, and felt like I had at least an understanding of the hardest part of the process (producing an XML feed? Cake. Syndication? Easy as pie. Engineering sound? Not so much…) and so we finally sat down to record. That first day we recorded 20 minutes of conversation and when we were done we both realized that we were hooked. We were podcasters.

The idea behind the podcast was deceptively simple. A dad and his 8-year old daughter were gonna just sit down and have a conversation. But when the conversation happened, something magical happened. We connected. We didn’t just talk to one another, we had a conversation. She talked. I listened. I talked. She listened. We shared ideas and laughed. I knew immediately I had lightning in a bottle and I wasn’t about to let it out.

The more I thought about that conversation and the potential for future conversations, the more I realized the potential of the idea. Working in advertising, I’m keenly aware of the value of insights. Understanding what motivates people and what are their likes, dislikes and passion points is the currency of my business. Outside of a focus group, where were you going to get raw, unfiltered opinions from that group? I began to wonder, what was her insight into her peer group? What could she see through? What were her thoughts about the things that she’s constantly being bombarded with at her age? Toys? Games? Books? Movies? How did these things flow through her life? I found myself becoming genuinely curious about my daughter and her world, and I was blown away beyond words at how articulate she could express those thoughts. I was stunned. I had little woman who had opinions and ideas and she was sharing them… with me.

After that first podcast, I realized this was much bigger than my plans to play around and tinker with how I was going to use *my* platform to air *my* voice. I had empowered my daughter. I had given HER a platform… and I was never going to give that up.

So give it a listen. Subscribe. We’re available on iTunes and Stitcher, as well as Soundcloud (latest episode embedded below), where the podcasts are hosted. We’re going to shoot for an episode a week and in a couple of weeks we’ll look at doing a live podcast from Dragon Con.

In the meantime, take a few minutes and listen to what it sounds like when you give an 8-year old girl a microphone and let her tell you what she thinks.

Lego Kidsfest Atlanta 2014

This past weekend, Sunday afternoon, I attended Lego Kidsfest Atlanta. It’s kinda like a Comic-Con for Legos. My daughters absolutely LOVE the Lego Friends stuff (as well as the Princess DUPLO sets) and so, naturally, they had to twist my arm to get me to attend. I’m a big fan of Mindstorms and Technics kits, so I had my own reasons for wanting to attend when I saw that there would be robotics demonstrations as well as Star Wars and Technics play areas.

The Lego Kidsfest people (brilliantly) realized that the whole room has about a 4-hour life-span. Not for the kids, of course, but for the parents attending. So they broke the three day (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) event down into “sessions” with one session on friday, and two sessions each on saturday and sunday. We attended session 2 on sunday from 3:30 to 7 and I really didn’t even get a sense that it was “the last day of the show”. The people working the event seemed just as enthusiastic as if it were Friday and the event just started.

As we wandered the event and played at various pit-stops, I found myself wondering things like, “does Lego put this on?” and, “where did all of these Legos come from?”. It’s an interesting event. It’s not really like a comic-con in that there were no “dealers” there or “booths” set up. But it also didn’t appear as if it was an official “Lego” event. It says on the website that it’s put on by LIFE Marketing & Events (yes, the LIFE is all caps… I don’t know why either, and I agree, it looks weird), and when you visit their page, it’s just a single page with rotating testimonials… so it seems to me that somebody somewhere had the great idea of selling kids $30 tickets to something that lasts 4 hours and figured out how to find the right brand to appeal to kids and draw ‘em in like Mongol Hordes. Kudos to them! For a minimal investment in toys (how much could bulk legos cost anyway?) and a spot at several high profile city event centers, you can tour the country, play with legos, and print money. Sounds like someone found their dream job…

At the end of the day, I was delighted, kids were over the moon, the people putting it on sold a boatload of tickets, and everybody walked away tired, but happy. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a lazy, hot Sunday.

Enjoy the Gallery. Click on the image to close:

The First Annual Southern Fried Gameroom Expo 2014

Oh my gosh. Where to begin? This past weekend I attended the First Annual Southern Fried Gameroom Expo at the Marriott Century Center.

It. Was. Amazing.

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever attended anything so awesome in recent memory. They had completely taken over the Marriott, and when I say, “completely taken over”, I mean “COMPLETELY TAKEN OVER”. I’ve been to that Marriott at least half a dozen times in the last couple of years for the quarterly single-day Atlanta Comic Book Convention (which is a great convention, by the way!) and it’s not even remotely been this packed. They had every ballroom in the place and every conference room open to convention-goers and packed with Pinball, Coin-op Arcade Video Games, Home Video consoles, retro/oldschool game systems, as well as various vendors stationed throughout the expo. It was great. Even if you walked up to the door, day of the show, it was only $20 admission for unlimited gaming, all the expo events, movie screenings, panels, and tournaments. Advance tickets were actually half that much! Note to self, when that thing comes around next year, make sure and buy advanced three day tickets.

I got there a little early on Saturday to participate in the Swap Meet. I’ve been dying to find an arcade cabinet for a while for a MAME project, and I got some business cards and talked to some people who can definitely help me when the time’s right. I am SO going to build a MAME cabinet with an oldschool controller setup. I saw some great examples of them there, and I think the cabinet might very well wind up being the most expensive part of the project. I also spent some time in the vintage home video system room playing Atari, Virtualboy, Intellivision, and my favorite vintage home video system of all time: Coleco Vision. What a great system.

Enjoy the photo gallery. I tried to upload some of the best pics I snapped while I was there. It was a fun time. If you heard about it this year and for some reason didn’t get to make it, by all means, don’t make that mistake next year. Here’s looking forward to the second annual one in 2015!

Click the images to enlarge, click the image again to close/exit:

Speaking on UX and Creative Technology at Digital Summit Atlanta 2014

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Speaking on UX and Creative Technology at “digitalsummit Atlanta 2014″.

This week I participated in a workshop at Digital Summit Atlanta 2014 with our Lead UX Designer on the intersection of User Experience and Creative Technology. We were thrown together in a bit of a last minute way, and immediately had this terrific idea that sprang from a conversation we were having about how many ways Creative Technology and User Experience can work together throughout a project and how impactful that working relationship can be. Chris Downs, our lead UX guy and I worked together on the United States Marine Corps YouTube Brand Channel, which was a really successful project and was really our first time working together, so we both tended to look back on it fondly, and could easily fill 50 minutes talking about all the ways User Experience and Creative Technology can work together to deliver amazing results. So the resulting presentation and session was terrific, I really enjoyed it and had a great time presenting with Chris.

We broke the relationship between user experience and innovative uses of creative technology by presenting the idea within the context of best in class examples of technology and innovation that are largely driven by the successful relationship between CT and UX. We chose Flip, Nest, Nike Fuelband, Evernote, Gmail, and Amazon. In each case we began by looking at the challenge(s) they faced, how UX & CT could work together to solve the issue, and what those processes could look like. We discussed examples of card sorting, customer experience audits, working scenarios, etc. I had a blast putting it together and enjoyed tremendously the opportunity to present it at Digital Summit Atlanta. The crowd was terrific, asked great questions, and several people came up afterward for extended conversations.

The presentation was so well received that we’re repurposing it for an internal audience and plan on giving it at an upcoming “What’s Hot” presentation on Monday mornings.

Pennzoil Mario Karting Reimagined

One of the greatest things you can do as a Creative Technology force within an agency is to be able to help shape a new experience. Something nobody has done before, or attempted to do maybe on a nice scale. The opportunity to marry technology know-how with strategic, creative excellence is what you live for.

Pennzoil wanted to launch a new product and gain the attention of younger, more technically savvy audience with a new take on Motor Oil. It’s Motor Oil Reimagined, and what better way to reimagine a product launch than to take a decades old brand and place them squarely in the middle of the most innovative place on earth, SXSW. Not only that, but tell the story of their new Synthetic Motor Oil, born from gas and developed using all new technology… all the while being relevant and exciting.

The answer of course, is Mario Karting… reimagined!

The fun part for me was being a part of a great spontaneous conversation that could easily be walked from brilliant idea, to technically feasible, to fully fleshed out project that was able to be sold and put together in the most inspirationally tight timeline possible. I was able to create a technical roadmap, identify & vet technologies, and work with several different teams to help put together a solution that was an amazing experience for all involved. All this in addition to leading the team that provided a fantastic job of supporting the launch and Mario Kart experience with a tightly integrated, multi-platform, responsive website that successfully leveraged the look and feel of both Pennzoil Platinum and Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 while living inside the current Pennzoil design. Once again, my team crushed it and I couldn’t be happier.

My Brush With Fame, Or, That Time I Met The American Dream Dusty Rhodes

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The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, if you will…

I was in the Navy in the mid to late 1980s. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and had family in North and South Carolina. So during the 70s and early 80s, I was a huge Jim Crockett Mid-Atlantic/NWA fan who attended shows in NC,SC, and VA religiously. I grew up on Rufus Jones, Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, Greg Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, etc. During the time I was in the Navy, I was stationed out west in Seattle. I didn’t get to fly home all that much, but this was one time I was heading home for vacation. I don’t recall if it was a direct flight from Seattle to Charlotte or not, but I know that I had a layover in Charlotte, and was flying from Charlotte to Richmond for leave.

So the flight from NC to VA was a brief little hop, and it was a late night flight. Like, around midnight. Not really a redeye, but a late flight nonetheless. Back in those days, fllghts would fly with barely anyone on them. It happened. This was one of those flights. If memory serves, there were less than a dozen people on the flight and my seat was towards the rear of the plane (the smoking section at the time). When I boarded I walked past the first few rows and seated up front, taking up nearly two seats, was Dusty Rhodes… THE Dusty Rhodes. Given that this was around 1986, there’s the very real possibility that he’s the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion, at the very least, he’s a contender and running Jim Crockett at the time. So this was a big deal.

I recognized him immediately and made my way back to my seat. There was nobody sitting around Dusty at all, and across the aisle, in the same row, it was completely open.

When the plane took off, the moment the seat belt light went off, I made my way up front and moved to that row. There I was, same row as the American Dream. I looked over and he had a spreadsheet out, was wearing little wireframe glasses that rested on the bridge of his nose, and was working on something… I’m guessing it was travel expenses or something of that nature. I just remember that he was engrossed in whatever it was. Now I was 18-19 at the time and starstruck, I certainly didn’t think anything about trying to strike up a conversation and potentially spending the next hour or so talking with Dusty (in my head we were already on a first name basis) about all things wrestling.

So I waited a moment, cleared my throat and said, “excuse me, are you the American Dream Dusty Rhodes?”.

He stopped what he was doing, looked over the rim of his glasses at me for a moment and said, “Thon, is that your athigned theat?”

Without a word, I got up and made my way back to my seat.

EDIT: Now with more bonus Dusty. This is from right around the same era. Dusty’s cutting a promo in October 1985, just before Starcade ’85. So a little context… He’s booking Crockett’s “Mid-Atlantic Wrestling” at this time. He’s A-list right now. Imagine someone in 1985 with Orton/Batista/HHH levels of heat and power. He’s not Flair… but he’s chasing him!

A trip to Seattle, a couple of days with the Marine Corps & Microsoft, and a day on Whidbey Island.

Whidbey Panorama

A panoramic view of Whidbey Island. Standing on the beach in Langley looking east. Camano Island across the water.

I’m on the plane heading back from Seattle after finally scoring an upgrade on a cross-country flight, so I’m relaxed, in a good mood, and reflecting on a pretty awesome past couple of days. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to attend a couple of days with our Marine Corps client, our media partners, and several different disciplines within Microsoft. We spent yesterday on the Microsoft Campus in Bellevue with several members of the advertising team, the Xbox team, and a few different groups within the Kinect team. Today we were lucky to get some time before we took off for the airport with the Skype team and had a really great discussion around the possibilities of their platform. Lots of great conversation, great ideas, and great technology. It’s tremendously rewarding to have chances like this to sit around a table with incredibly smart, enthusiastic, passionate people who love what they do and spend an afternoon brainstorming ways to make something better. To make an experience better. To make a process better. To work on something that’s already good, and make it great.

I know the specs are out there, and anyone can see on paper how much of an improvement the v2 Kinect (The Kinect on the Xbox One) is over the v1 (360), but witnessing a presentation and seeing some pretty compelling demonstrations of it up close, is another thing entirely. The increase in resolution and camera/microphone capability, plus the leaps in software development have enabled the former “Natal Project” to begin to realize its potential as a game changing User Interface. Microsoft is one of the leaders in Human-Computer Interaction research - Natural User Interface (NUI) is something they’ve spent a lot of time looking into – and the things they were able to demonstrate beyond gaming are amazing to see. I was completely blown away by some of the ways the technology is being used.

In addition to the time spent with Microsoft, we had a really great time with the Marines. It was a real pleasure to have a chance to spend some time with Maj General Brilakis & Lt Col Hernandez and their respective teams, and hear firsthand how the work you’re doing is impacting the challenges that go hand in hand with recruiting the best & brightest and turning them into Marines. We had an absolutely amazing dinner on Lake Union and were able to continue our conversation about technology, recruiting, advertising. We were even able to swap some stories and I learned what everyone’s first car was! I hadn’t thought about that Mustang in years!

Deception Pass Bridge

Deception Pass looking south, towards Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the trip for me, was a chance to spend a day driving up to Oak Harbor and Deception Pass. I haven’t been back there in years, and it turned out that Sunday was the ceremonial, “first beautiful day of the year” with a 70 degree day and not a cloud in sight. My friend/co-worker Dave and I made it to Mukilteo in time to catch the 9:30 ferry over to the island and got to Langley just in time to grab an incredible breakfast at The Braeburn Restaurant before making our way up the Island. After spending some time wandering around the park at Deception Pass we headed back south to Oak Harbor. I made Dave drive the long way around so I could snake back through “downtown” and was pleased to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Downtown Oak Harbor still looked exactly the way I remembered it. We stopped at Seabolt’s Smokehouse, grabbed some lunch (again, with the crab) and I made sure not to leave without getting a gift box of Seabolt’s Smoked Salmon to take back to the ATL. A gift I’ll be sure and pass along to myself for a job (some job… any job) well done!

All in all, a really great trip. Both professionally, and personally, this was one that I really enjoyed and can look back on and really soak in what I was able to see, and discuss, and think about. These things cram a lot into a few days, but I have no doubt that I was sufficiently inspired to go out and make cool shit. Lots of cool, cool shit.

Adobe Marketing Summit 2014 and an Evening with Vampire Weekend

Salt Lake City

A panoramic view of Salt Lake City, Utah

I was in Salt Lake City last week for the Adobe Summit, their annual Marketing Cloud gathering. I’ve attended over a dozen Max Conferences, which cover the Creative Cloud portion of the business, but this was my first experience at the other side of the equation. I’m looking at working in Adobe Experience Manager over the next twelve months so I was looking forward to digging into some of the new features of their platforms. I wasn’t disappointed.

The theme of the conference this year was “Reinventing Marketing” and both of the General Sessions (Tuesday and Wednesday) were great platforms to demonstrate not only what reinvention looks like, but how Adobe’s suite of tools are leading the way. With a host of new features focused on customers and their various interactions all along the funnel, it’s clear that the future of CRM/Media/Social/Analytics/Marketing/Content is all becoming one “cloudy” ecosystem of interlocking tools that are allowing marketers to gain insight in ways not previously seen.

With the ability to do advanced real-time audience profiling, predictive marketing mix planning, and technology that seamlessly manages content across the Web and mobile apps, the Adobe Marketing Cloud is growing into a compelling suite of tools. Most of the sessions I sat in on were focused on Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and it’s clear that this is the centerpiece of the collection. The latest release of AEM has a nice list of new features that will go a long way towards realizing the “reinvention of marketing”. Language Translation, Content Insight, App Authoring, Digital Asset Management, Unified Moderation, and (for me) the most interesting of the bunch, a tag language that can create HTML assets at runtime from Data pulled from the server. Really interesting stuff. As someone who was new to the platform, I was quite blown away.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Adobe event without the “Adobe Bash” and this year didn’t disappoint. I’ll leave you with a couple of things. First, Adobe is obviously making all the right moves. They’re centralizing a realtime engine for digital marketing and it’s pretty epic. Secondly, there’s no greater band on earth than Vampire Weekend.

Walk With The Data – JWT Data Capabilities Case Study

This was great. In my role as Director of Creative Technology and Marketing Science at JWT, I oversee one of the largest data-driven advertising solutions around. The United States Marine Corps has been recruiting young men and women to serve for over 235 years and JWT has been helping them do it by building an incredibly complex and robust customer relationship management system. Combined with our Planning, Research, and Strategy disciplines, we arm the Marine Corps with insight and a deep understanding of their audience and their behaviors. In order to demonstrate this expertise and what a unique offering and skill JWT has as a result of this background, we created a sizzle reel about data.

Yeah, you heard me right, “we created a sizzle reel about data”… and it’s pretty fucking sweet.

Take a look and check out what it looks like when an advertising agency REALLY does data smartly.

Welcome to SXSW!

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For the second year in a row, I’m back in Austin attending SXSW. Below are some thoughts. I attended some cool stuff, saw some cool things, met cool people, had a lot of cool encounters and even cooler conversations.

First day in Austin. Landed this morning, straight to the Palmer Center to work on the Mario Kart experience we’ve been putting together since late last year. It’s nice to see all the hard work and big ideas come to life. It’s the most rewarding part of the job, by far. Make sure you check out the accompanying website that my team in Dallas put together. I’m really proud of the work they did.