We’ve Been Nominated: Vote for the Pixel Awards! 02/11/2016


Pixel Awards is a leading international awards program that honors noteworthy design and technology. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Awards recognize exceptional design and technology that help inspire and advance our industry.

We’re super-excited that we’ve been nominated in four categories of this year’s contest! We’d love your support by voting for us in the Agency (FOUR32C), Fashion & Beauty (Vera Wang), Food & Beverage (Solerno), and Events & Conferences (Prevention R3 Summit) categories.

You can vote once a day until March 1, 2016, to help choose the People’s Champs.

Please Enjoy (Responsibly) Our Latest Collaboration With Solerno Liqueur 01/13/2016

Solerno Liqueur

We are excited to share our latest luxury brand site launch, for Solerno Liqueur! Solerno collects the essential oils from Sicily’s blood oranges and mixes them with lemon and orange to create a bright and vibrant flavor – and they needed a website to match. With a fresh color palate and intuitive navigation, we created a website to fully hero the product. The responsive site is in two languages and has a locator feature so you always know how close you are to the nearest Solerno bar.

If it’s a sun-drenched cocktail you crave this winter, checkout the ten mouthwatering recipes.  After a few refreshing sips, even the winter-weariest may find a bit more spring in their step. Your margaritas will never be the same.

Visit the site here.

Do Androids Dream Of Human Sheep? 12/09/2015 manandrobot

manandrobotThere must be something in the air, but it seems as if suddenly everyone is talking about robots. Specifically, people are talking about how robots soon will start taking over jobs currently held by humans. Even more specifically, artificial intelligence and computer-learning will advance (or maybe already have advanced) to a state where machines can make decisions and generate ideas that previously only the human brain could dream up.

For those of us who work at the intersection of technology and creativity, the coming showdown between man and machine—and the fear it inevitably conjures up—is starting to be part of the daily dialog. So it was no surprise that this was one of the predominant themes of the 4A’s CreateTech Conference that I attended last month.

Billed as “the conference for the seriously curious,” 4A’s CreateTech brought together creative technologists and digital strategists working in advertising and marketing to hear and learn from an impressive roster of speakers who come from a much-wider swath of creative technology fields than purely “advertising.” Indeed, for an ad conference, CreateTech is decidedly (and refreshingly) un-advertising in its subject matter and overall approach.

While there is a growing impression that the convergence of digital and traditional marketing has sufficiently blurred the lines between the two, my sense is that the line at some agencies is still pretty sharp. For me, the primary theme that emerged from the first day of this year’s CreateTech Conference was the tension that exists between creativity and technology at many agencies. It wasn’t so long ago that digital was perceived as an afterthought or a value-add, but nowadays, digital and tech are creeping onto Madison Avenue’s center stage, which has resulted in confusion at best and missed opportunities at worst—at least for some.

Technology for technology’s sake—often at the expense of creativity and effectiveness—may have been the rule in early days, but we’ve come a long way since then, and creativity and technology are no longer mutually exclusive. Storytelling and persuasion remain at the forefront of the very best in marketing, and technology has afforded practitioners with a powerful arsenal of tools to help tell our stories.

Which brings us back to robots. The theme that emerged from the second day of the conference was the tension that exists between people and machines. If we’re to believe some of the prophets, robots and machines may soon eliminate tasks once held by us mere mortals. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to this. After all, machines excel at things that people do terribly, i.e., menial tasks that rightly should be automated. But machines also are great at “thinking” multi-dimensionally, something humans struggle with.

The idealist in me thinks that by combining our human impulse to make sense of the world we live in through the art of storytelling with the machine science of information and data processing, we’ll able to create bigger, better, richer experiences, whether in digital space or real space. Or at least that’s the goal.

 By Elizabeth Stafford
Holiday Cheer From FOUR32C—West Chelsea Style! 12/08/2015

FOUR32C Holiday2015

Not to brag or nothin’, but we love our West Chelsea neighborhood! Our studio has been here for more than five years, and the area just keeps getting better and better. The holidays are an especially great time to stroll the High Line, visit local galleries, shop, and refuel at one of the many terrific neighborhood restaurants and bars.

This holiday season, we wanted to share some of our favorite West Chelsea places with our friends and clients, so we put together a handy-dandy interactive guide as well as created a limited-edition FOUR32C holiday shopping tote to hold your holiday haul!

Merry, merry and happy, happy from all of us at FOUR32C! And why don’t you stop by the studio for a visit the next time you’re in the ’hood?

Check it out here!

Four Ways to Rethink Responsive Web Design 11/19/2015

Responsive Web DesignWhile the popularity and growing ubiquity of responsive web design has enhanced the web experience across multiple devices for many brands, a mobile-first approach to responsive design is not always the right solution. In fact, as consumers have become more flexible with their use of different devices, design innovation hasn’t always kept pace and some basic rules of responsive design now require rethinking.

These days, prioritizing mobile-first over all else to ensure elegant content flow across multiple screen sizes seems to have trumped the user’s contextual experience with content. At best, developing a well-thought-out web experience with responsive design starts by asking the right questions about what specific users need from specific experiences on specific devices. At worst, responsive design has become an exercise in aesthetics rather than a true exploration of user experience.

When coupled with a human-centered design approach, responsive design can transform user experiences from merely serviceable to contextually engaging—at the right time, in the right place and in the right way.

Here are four ways that we’re rethinking responsive design:

 01. Design Starts With Behavior—Not Device or Screen Size

The fundamental design challenge is uncovering how consumers engage with brands they love, and ensuring that their experiences with brand content are tightly integrated with the context of their experiences. Sitting with a smartphone on a couch in front of the TV is a radically different experience from viewing content on a smartphone in a retail aisle. Assuming that responsive design magically can address these differences without careful consideration of user behavior undercuts the best intentions of responsive design.

Breakpoints should be based on a user’s environment rather than the device that’s being used. This is a subtle but important distinction. Users need information tailored to their environment not simply tailored to fit screen size. And in order to present the right content at the right time, user behavior needs to lead discovery to find the best approach. If user behavior is dramatically different from one device to another, standard responsive design may not be the best solution and we might have to scrap a responsive design approach and create custom adaptive sites to better meet users’ needs.

 02. Mobile-First Doesn’t Necessarily Always Need to Be First

There’s no denying that designing for mobile devices—whether smartphone, phablet or tablet—is critical, but mobile doesn’t necessarily always need to be first. The greatest benefit of starting with mobile is that it distills user goals and business objectives to the essentials of a web experience; however, mobile-first intentions sometime becomes mobile-priority mandates, unduly constraining all other screen experiences.

Conventional wisdom in responsive design thinking dictates that responsive design begins at the smallest breakpoint and works its way up through desktop screen layouts. This assumption is predicated on the belief that all (or most) of all brands’ web traffic originates from mobile channels, which simply isn’t universally true … yet.

While mobile is increasingly the first point of exposure for a consumer to a brand, user behavior research may reveal that a significant portion of a brand’s core users still primarily accesses web content through laptop or desktop screens. If a brand’s business objective is to reach consumers where they are (in this case, not starting at mobile), then ignoring this insight could result in the creation of an excellent mobile experience, but a lackluster laptop or desktop experience—precisely where a desktop-leading brand’s audience is consuming most of its content.

Rather than blindly sticking to a mobile-first approach, we employ an “every screen” strategy and lean on user research to uncover the optimal device and screen that best reaches a user’s preferred mode of content acquisition. An every screen approach allows designers to consider information hierarchy that best suits a user’s needs.

03. Design for Unique Consumers’ Unique Needs

When it comes to responsive design, an overly device-centric focus at the start can lead to false assumptions. After all, mobile doesn’t always mean mobile (as in on-the-go), it could simply mean hand-held. Further, hand-held web experiences can differ significantly depending on where a given device is being used as well as differ significantly depending on the unique perspectives and needs of a given user.

One of the biggest problems about what’s being discussed around responsive design is the fact that the interactive design community seems to have lost track of the most important factor in user experience design, namely the user. Oftentimes, when people consider responsive design, they think about it as a design challenge or technology challenge instead of thinking about it as user experience challenge. Designing with a user-centric mindset at the start leverages understanding of what and where users are experiencing brand content.

Understanding what makes a user unique can help to develop a design approach that addresses each user’s and specific needs. To achieve this, we create unique information architecture for every device, starting where the user is, while maintaining consistent brand and user experiences. Therefore, if the user starts her experience on mobile and finishes on a desktop or if the user starts his experience on desktop then hands off to mobile, we design with each unique point of entry in mind.

Developing an optimized, brand-consistent user experience goes hand-in-hand with staying true to a brand’s business objectives.

04. Best Practices Aren’t Always Best

In the early days, experiences on the mobile web were often radically different from desktop experiences. Then tablets came on the scene and the desire to have a more consistent, on-brand experience took precedence. The problem is that if the same content is essentially being served up on different devices, only in smaller pieces, then all of the opportunities to address a user’s needs are not being considered to the fullest extent.

What keeps us on our toes is that best practices are constantly in flux, which is the nature of design in our business. Mobile devices are becoming more powerful. Laptops are becoming more portable. But only through solid research and discovery can we understand users’ behavior and address their needs.

The promise of responsive design is that there are unified tenets that can help designers and developers iterate more quickly. But at whose expense? The user and the client? A user’s mobile needs may change dramatically over a year, while the user’s desktop needs may not. Would those conditions change a site architecture that no longer fits into the responsive model? In many instances, responsive design may make sense right now, but the harsh reality is that it could cause friction down the line. Like many principles and approaches in this changing landscape, rules for responsive design shouldn’t be seen as absolute.

Check out some of our recent responsive design work, including projects for CBS Interactive, Vera Wang, and NYRP.

By Mike Lee

Fantasy Football Just Got a Little More Real 10/22/2015

CBS-blog-1Our redesign of the CBS Fantasy Sports site launched right in time for football season ensuring fans won’t miss a single stat!  With the intuitive interface, fantasy football fans can easily access information on hundreds of teams and thousands of players to always make the right call this season.

At FOUR32C we love to solve complex problems and figuring out how to make the stats accessible was a snap. Flexible modules make the site easy to update for the client and quick to digest for the fans. Go check out the site here.

You can also see our case study here.


Six Reasons to Drop Photoshop for Sketch 09/16/2015

Sketch vs. Photoshop

FOUR32C designers were using Photoshop before some of our younger employees were born. While it wasn’t built for designing interfaces, it came with plenty of tools to adapt it for what we needed it to do. In Fall 2014, we collaborated with CBS Interactive in a redesign of the CBS Sports sites (the first site, Fantasy News site is scheduled to launch next week). They were in the process of moving over to Sketch, and we decided to give it a live test. But before making the leap, we did our homework and a little bit of tinkering. We ended up loving Sketch so much it’s become our go-to tool. Since then, we’ve used it in designing projects for New York Daily News, Weight Watchers, Men’s Journal, Bobbi Brown, and even our own website. Here’s why you should switch too.

  1. It’s easy. Learning Sketch is progressively rewarding. The UI is very intuitive. Sketch combines aspects of InDesign—like styles and patterns—with the pixel perfection of Photoshop. And as you become proficient, you unlock its power.
  2. Working with developers is a breeze. You can import and export CSS. In the past, we couldn’t rely on things like letter spacing to be accurate when giving developers designs in PSDs. All of Sketch’s effects, like shadows and gradients, can be converted to CSS. Even if a developer doesn’t like the code it produces, it’s a baseline they can understand and work with.
  3. It’s cheap. Sketch is available for a one time payment of $99, compared to CS6’s $1,900 or Creative Cloud’s yearly $600.
  4. It’s fast. More precision in the design phase means fewer mistakes in development, which means a higher quality product in shorter timelines. Sketch makes it easy to revise work with the client as you build a design system with the style sheets.
  5. Three words: Interactive. Style. Guides. They’re already embedded in Sketch. We didn’t need to create one to share with our clients and developers. And if we, or the client, makes changes they appear throughout.
  6. And the biggest reason: Sketch is made for building user interfaces. Photoshop is a powerful tool, but its audience is broad (photographers, interactive designers, motion graphic designers, etc.). Using an application for the purpose it was created means you’re going to have a better experience. Here are four specific very cool examples:
    • Sketch doesn’t support actions a website wouldn’t—anything we do in sketch can be replicated in code.
    • The designer can work with the actual pixels on the screen—and export to all device pixel ratios. Take working in retina. In the past, we would need to double the webpage’s size to account for appearance once it was scaled down. Sketch has an export function that renders a graphic any size (double, triple, fixed width/height, etc.)
    • Speaking of devices, Sketch makes managing designs and styles across devices effortless. It combines artboards and pages so you can design the whole website in one file, or see the design in all of its responsive iterations (everything from desktop to mobile).
    • Web typography is rendered more accurately in Sketch. What you see is what you get… well at least closer than any other design tool.

Always Improving

Sketch has some downsides too (we don’t love autosaving, no revision history, and it’s pretty processor intensive) but any new app will have minor issues to be sorted out in coming updates.

Sketch is the first Photoshop alternative that’s ever made us consider tossing out our “I heart Adobe” t-shirts.

We did it, and we’re glad we did.

Dear Apple: It’s Time to Add More Humanity to Your Human Interface Guidelines 09/10/2015 apple_four32c

apple_four32cAt Apple’s hilariously overproduced Apple Special Event yesterday, the company announced its long-awaited update to Apple TV, alongside the most advanced iPhone and iPad yet—because for some reason Apple is choosing not to launch new products that are less advanced than its existing lineup figure. Apple TV, that surprisingly simple, near-ubiquitous home media appliance, now has Siri integration. But is this enhancement too little too late or do we simply expect more?

The company that arguably created our modern understanding (and appreciation) of user experience and product design is now in the position of having to play catch up. Companies like Amazon, Google and even FitBit are taking Apple’s pioneering approach to iOS Human User Interface and are expanding those principles beyond the visual.

Until now, Apple has rested on pretty—pretty interfaces, pretty design (iTunes excluded, what was Apple thinking?). Back in the day when the decidedly unpretty IBM was lurking around, we really wanted pretty. But good visual design has become commoditized. Companies that once relied solely or primarily on superior technology, like Google, have become design innovators. So Apple needs to step up its game. To continue its domination, it’s time Apple started creating user experiences that advance its legacy of innovation beyond the visual and deliver products and experiences in context of our bodies and our environments.

The Smarter Home

It appears the latest Apple TV is trying to be the new Amazon Fire TV with voice activation and gaming features. OK, we suppose those are features worth striving for, but maybe just like Amazon Echo strategy, this is Apple’s first step toward the realization of the Smart Home. Amazon has done an excellent job in creating an interactive home appliance with a simple and beautifully executed voice-activated interface. There is no attached screen on Amazon Echo, yet, but it’s not needed. As you walk through your home, you simply ask Alexa (that’s Amazon for Siri) for news, weather, and traffic updates as you make coffee and get ready for work. This type of audio interface makes complete sense for the home. It’s perhaps not quite as personal, you’re not looking at and tapping on your wrist (more about that later). But the interface is still open to the entire family (save for maybe your pets, yet) and is perfectly aligned with a home environment. Well done, Amazon.

At this point, Amazon and Apple have not really codified a new Verbal or Audio User Experience taxonomy. They’re relying on natural language processing to hopefully get users the results they want, which may only go so far with their current technologies. Echo seems to do a better job at this than Siri. If Apple took a page from its own playbook and updated the Human User Interface Guidelines with a Verbal chapter, that might just bridge its current technology gap.

Wanted: Less Watch, More Apple

For generations, the entertainment industry has been priming us for wrist communicators with the likes of Dick Tracy and Star Trek. Pop culture has even inspired cell phones, and the market is virtually untapped—a free range for tech giants like Apple to stake its billion dollar claim. So why is it, after nearly 70 years of being prepped for this Next Big Thing, when we are presented with a smartwatch created by a historically revolutionary company, the overwhelming response is a resounding “Meh??

Apple’s last great innovation was the iPhone. They leapt over their competition by adding a high resolution touchscreen, which did not require a stylus or keyboard, and introduced multiple dimensional navigation, which has become a standard for smartphones. But the same tactics don’t resonate for the Apple Watch. For Apple’s most intimate product, the screen takes you away from your actual environment and into the near-field world of dials, spins, and taps. Just tweaking the successful iPhone interface principles for a smaller screen doesn’t take into account the difference in user perspective. In creating Apple Watch, Apple was in the position to create something entirely unique: a non-graphic user interface based on gestures, sounds, or vibrations that intimately connected us to each other by not forcing us look at a screen.

A fully fleshed out haptics interface could’ve made the difference. In the Apple Watch there are some minimal tactile sensations on the wrist. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough to create a new modality that makes sense on a person’s body. If Apple wearables are really going to take off, they must take a cue from Fitbit and minimize the visual interface while expanding the tactile responses.

To the Future

The personal computing revolution started by taking a room full of computing power, scaling it down and putting it on a person-sized device for a human to use with a keyboard and mouse (thanks again, Apple). But as our information infrastructure expands to every aspect of our lives, interfaces should respond accordingly and, most importantly, in context. An interaction on a user’s wrist is different from an interaction in her car. An experience in her home is different from one in the office. Apple has the brainpower and resources to define how these appropriate and specific user experiences will work in context to over everyday environments, where we are and who we are with. We’re looking forward to iOS Human User Interface Guidelines from Apple that bring in more humanity and moves beyond just pretty visual interfaces.


Photo: Terry Johnston

Style.com: In Memoriam 09/02/2015 Style.com

When New York Fashion Week kicks off on Sept. 10, some  familiar faces will be missing from the front rows, namely the writers and editors from Style.com, which was shuttered on Aug. 31, and will be retooled as an e-commerce site. Style.com—and the people who built and grew it—revolutionized the fashion industry by bringing full photographic coverage of fashion shows to the masses, showcases that were once reserved only for industry elite. By providing a unique, behind-the-scenes look into NYFW (among other showcases), Style.com effectively democratized fashion, making it accessible, fun and attainable for many. But over the past several years, Style.com fell victim to decreased investment in new technology and languished under corporate disinterest. Condé Nast, Style.com’s parent, pulled the plug on the floundering site in its fifteenth year, and as of today, Vogue Runway steps in to fill Style’s place.

Style originally entered the then-burgeoning Internet fray as an industry gossip column in 2000. Soon after its launch, Style expanded to cover fashion shows and grew more popular with a revolutionary innovation: While other fashion journals might publish one or two photos from the shows in their magazines (after all, print space is limited and expensive to produce), Style.com sent photographers to snap photos at all of the shows, and then upload every single image to the site. Style effectively tapped into the kind of total access that the Internet creates and consumers demand, and with that, Style.com offered the first comprehensive and genuine view into fashion show coverage available without actually being there.

From that point, Style.com owned fashion shows in ways that no other publication—print or online—ever did. The site posted photos of every look that came down the runways, including details and accessories. Consumers visited the site in droves. Style.com quickly became an online lookbook for the next season’s trends. Shoppers would go into stores and request “Ralph Lauren’s look number 16 from Style.” It wasn’t an official “look number,” per se, it was Style.com’s number. Through August 2015, it was still the most visited online-only women’s fashion resource.

Condé Nast realized there was e-commerce gold to be mined.

In 2001, Style.com partnered with Neiman Marcus to launch an online store that featured real editorial and merchandising, teams behind it. Instead of simply reporting on fashion shows, this early mover e-commerce site would use Style.com’s authority as a runway lookbook to connect consumers with the products they coveted, and Condé Nast would profit from the retail desire the online store was fueling. The team was small and the first collections they sold were decidedly elite (and considered way expensive for e-commerce at the time), but the venture would undoubtedly be worth it in the end.

But after the WTC attacks less than a week after the shop opened in the fall of 2001, the initial exuberance for high-end fashion e-tail suddenly seemed frivolous, and shoppers stopped shopping and the investment didn’t pay out as it was supposed to. Shuttered less than five months later, the online shop was written off as a failure, and the e-commerce bug disappeared from Style.com. Any future efforts to leverage fashion authority into direct commerce revenue, at both Style.com and Condé Nast, were small and unimaginitive. Style.com returned to its roots, bringing the runway to the masses. By now, however, Style.com had competition.

FirstView, online since 1995, had been studiously learning from Style.com, investing in photographers and videographers to improve the quality of content on its own site. And in 2005, Refinery29 was founded, opening its own online store shortly after, and expanding its editorial work outside of fashion.

Style.com also faced internal competition from Vogue. With one hundred years of history as a trusted fashion magazine, Vogue was much better funded than the upstart Style.com, and had access to fashion’s inner circle. When vying for resources, print dollars won out over digital pennies.

So, Condé Nast International Group has taken over the URL Style.com. They’ll run it in cooperation with the U.S. team as an entirely new British e-commerce website—completely separate from the original “Style.com.” Some of the old editorial team will move over to Vogue.com, some will go on to other things.

What could Condé Nast have done differently?

First, Condé Nast should have invested more aggressively in new tech. Style.com was an early adopting revolutionary, a true rarity in the fashion industry. When Style.com realized other sites were copycatting them, it could have been more effective at staying ahead of the pack with technology solutions and new ways to engage with users.

Second, Style.com should have found ways to avoid competing with Vogue, and new tech would have opened up new opportunities. Style.com couldn’t compete with Vogue to be the preeminent fashion authority, the site simply didn’t have the level of income to justify the kind of content creation required to be competitive (content that Vogue already mastered), or the 100-year brand history. But it did have unprecedented behind the scenes access and a hungry market that was more mass than Vogue’s. Exploring an e-commerce and runway review might have once offered a unique solution, but Refinery29 jumped on the idea that Style.com abandoned after its initial failure.

Third, Style.com could have worked as a startup within a larger media company. In fact, that’s how Style began. But the startup mentality that brought initial success quickly sputtered out; had it been sustained, Style.com might have been able to pivot on the initial e-commerce attempt. Startups are willing to lose now to win tomorrow.

But, hindsight is always 20/20, right?

What has FOUR32C learned?

Mark Jarecke started out at Condé  Nast Digital, where he helped turn it into the revolutionary fashion icon that it was. Here’s some of what he learned from the experience.

“Anna Wintour was the best teacher I had. I’ve tried to bring some of what I learned from my time at Condé Nast Digital to FOUR32C.

“I think the first thing is that internal meetings are useless if there isn’t a clear purpose and action following the meeting. Don’t waste yours or anyone else’s time. I learned more one-on-one with Anna than I did in big group discussions.

“Surround yourself with amazing peers. I was so lucky to work with incredible editors, designers, engineers, and business folk at Condé Nast that have gone on to be leaders and influencers in the interactive space. Collaboration is key and a great team makes all the difference.

“Don’t overwork your staff. You have to be aware of what people can reasonably handle. That being said, you have to invest in the right people. If you have the right people doing the right jobs, you’ll have a smaller team creating better work.

“Invest in technology. It opens up new avenues for creativity. And you need to understand your users. I think those go hand-in-hand. Fashion magazine content is dictated by the editors. They’re the tastemakers. Digital is more of a platform for the masses, both because more people can access it and because the interface combined with data makes that content available to a wider audience. Vogue can’t rely on big stories like ‘I am Cait’, as Vanity Fair did,  to stay relevant anymore, Condé Nast needs to think of their brands as more than a magazine if they want to compete.

“Good User Experience is Good Design. At Condé we worked on very complex tools and content hierarchies for both Style and Epicurious. The systems we created helped define their categories. This was an amazing opportunity to really understand the importance of good User Experience Design—how to simply express interactivity. We bring this discipline to every project.

“At FOUR32C, we bring an attitude of experimentation and curiosity to our engagements coupled with experience at building products that engage users. And we work fast and flexibly. We don’t do too many meetings. We rely on smart people. We get out there in the world and understand what’s interesting and new—regardless of category.

“Condé Nast has really struggled with digital products. I predict that if they don’t start adapting, their online properties are going to be outsmarted by leaner, hungrier, and more ambitious ones. And that’s not good. Condé Nast has historically brought the worlds or fashion, food, entertainment, and art to the masses. Ironically this is what the internet does really well.


Style.com Timeline of Events and Leadership

Advance Publications creates CondéNet & Epicurious Launches 1995
Style.com Launches 2000 Goli Sheikholeslami
Sr. VP & Managing Dir.
Mark Jarecke
Art Director
Elizabeth Stafford
VP Marketing
Style.com partners with Neiman Marcus to launch The Shop 2001 Candy Pratts Price
Fashion Director
Jamie Pallot
Janet Ozzard
Executive Editor
2002 Sarah Chubb
President, CondéNet
Amina Aktar
Associate Editor
2003 Mark Jarecke
promted to Creative Director
2004 Dirk Standen
Nicole Phelps
Executive Editor
Sarah Cristobal
Associate Editor
Spin-off Men.style.com Launches
Refinery 29 Launches
2006 Mike Lee
Design Director
Fashionista Launches 2007
Style.com iOS App Launches 2008 Mark Jarecke
leaves to form FOUR32C
CondéNet moves under Condé Nast & Men.style.com closes 2009 Candy Pratts Prices
leaves Style.com
Style.com reports to
Fairchild Fashion Media
2010 Gina Sanders
President & CEO, FFM
Dan Shar
VP & General Manager, Digital
Style.com Print Magazine Launches 2011
Fairchild buys blog network NowManifest 2012 Sean Brown
Digital Creative Director
Penske Media acquires Fairchild
Style goes back to Condé Nast
2014 Dirk Standen
moves to W Magazine
Style.com content moves to Vogue.com 2015 Nicole Phelps
moves to Vogue.com
Dirk Standen
moves to 23 Stories
How ‘Jurassic World’ Cost Advertisers Millions 06/22/2015

Advertisers tried to engage with consumers by being part of the story, but they probably wasted their money.


Jurassic World is storming through box office records and the companies who were featured in the film—brands ranging from Starbucks to Brookstone to Margaritaville—have gotten enough exposure to make any advertiser drool. Whether the product placements were part of a corporate money-grab, a meta-commentary on it, or some combination of the two is up for debate. The question marketers should be asking is if those companies will see any return on their investment in the film.

Product placement in movies and television is everywhere you look. In 2010 alone, advertisers funneled $7.5 billion into consumer screens in the form of paid product placements. This is partly due to the rise of time shifting. Since most DVR users breeze past commercials (90% according to the International Journal of Business and Management), product placements come at a time when the viewer’s advertising-blinders are down—during the program.

 However, the successes and failures of product placements are dependent on how they’re used. In Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, Martin Lindstrom put it to the neuroscientific test:

 [F]or product placement to work, it has to be a lot slyer and more sophisticated than plunking a series of random products on a screen and expecting us to respond. [In E.T.] Elliott didn’t just pop those Reese’s Pieces into his mouth during a thoughtless bike ride with his buddies … Unless the brand in question plays a fundamental part of the storyline, we won’t remember it, period.

Mark Jarecke

Films like Jurassic World, with its brand-saturated plot, just produce a lot of white noise. Even if the product placements contribute to the theme of corporate greed, those brands aren’t being used to advance the plot themselves—they’re just there. The Coca-Cola that Chris Pratt’s character cooled off with didn’t contribute anymore towards the plot than the specially made SUVs Mercedes Benz unveiled in the film. Mercedes won’t disclose how much they put into having their cars featured in the movie, but however much it was, according to Lindstrom, most of it was a waste.

Jurassic Park Barbasol Shaving Cream Product Placement

So, what sort of product placements do work? Lindstrom pointed out that Reeses Pieces sales tripled a week after E.T.’s release, and the original Jurassic Park had a textbook example of effective product placement as well. Remember the Barbasol can Nedry uses to smuggle the dinosaur embryos out of the park? In the bottom of the can was a cold-storage container capable of holding dino DNA for up to 36 hours. It also had real shaving cream, in case security grew suspicious. Barbasol benefited so much from this cameo that they’ve continued their partnership with the Jurassic franchise some twenty years later by creating Jurassic World themed cans.

It worked because Barbasol’s presence in the film not only made sense, it contributed to the plot in a major way. Despite Jurassic World’s enormous box office success, when it comes to product placement, marketers would do better to look back about twenty years—to a small can of shaving cream.

Jewish Museum Shop Launch

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Luna Park’s New Look

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FOUR32C Jams

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