Posts tagged “ge”

Crossover Hit

One of the commercial breaks during the debut episode of Christian Slater’s new TV show, My Own Worst Enemy, started with a little recruiting pitch for the consulting agency that Slater’s character works for on the show, something along the lines of “we’re looking for a few good people.”

The spot listed a website for AJ Sun Consulting, the fictional character’s fictional employer. So of course I checked it out-I’m fascinated by this stuff.
The site was more substantial than I expected, sporting among its pages a mission statement, a privacy statement, and a client-access-only login field. And not a sign of it being a marketing platform for anything other than AJ Sun Consulting, until I had gotten as far as the fifth question on the job application form on the Careers page. But there it was:

Are you interested in learning more about our company’s employee program with Chevy?
___ Yes
___ No

Which Chevy vehicle would you prefer as your company car?
___ Chevy Traverse
___ Chevy Camaro

Looking into the backstory, I found a May 2008 press release from NBC quoting Dino Bernacchi, General Motors’ Director of Marketing Alliances and Branded Entertainment:

“We call it Fusion Marketing – partnering with the creative community around ideas that build relationships with a passionate audience, but done through the lens of the entertainment property.”

And indeed, a quick check of shows the site registered to General Electric, NBC’s parent company. (GE, furthering its forays into “fusion marketing,” also appears as Liz Lemon’s employer on the NBC show 30 Rock.)

For a while, there was a lot of buzz around companies and public figures trying to create a presence in Second Life and use that world to spur more action for themselves in this one. (The Second Life Video Gallery at New Business Horizons has some interesting artifacts around some of these efforts.)

So exactly what is it that’s happening, metaphysically, when I’m in “first life” interacting in a fake forum created by a real entity like GM to sell a real product through a fake premise?

I feel a little bit like the girl in the old A-Ha video–inhabiting a place that’s between real and virtual.

Related posts:
This Space Available
Collateral Damage
Field Research … In Second Life

BW on ethno

BusinessWeek has a new article about ethnography. The author posted a blurb about it on a mailing list I’m on, asking for feedback (I guess some on the list provided input into the piece) and expressing interest continuing the conversation. So far my comments have gone unanswered, so I’m summarizing them here.

It’s nice to see some fresh examples of success in the application of ethnography. The GE example is very cool and goes beyond the usual fix a product case study and into the evolve a business’s culture that really rang true from my own experience.

However, I was disappointed to see the article buy into the ethnography = anthropology myth and the corollary that all ethnographers are anthropologists. Indeed, the article incorrectly attributes the anthropology credential to some people such as Tony Salvador who I believe was trained as a psychologist, or the people at Steelcase, some of whom I know as graduates of the Institute of Design, and are definitely not anthropologists. IDEO may have anthropologists, but a great deal of their people involved in “human factors” (as they term it) are coming with other educational backgrounds.

It’s tempting to see a conspiracy of highly-placed anthropologists who work behind the scenes to ensure that any conversation about user research in product development and consulting succumbs helplessly to this myth, but I think really sloppy reporting is more likely the culprit here.

John Thackera Thackara writes about the article in his typical sanctimonious style (seriously – I will have to give up on In The Bubble because it’s filled with mean-spirited judgment of one profession or endeavor on one page, and then a capricious about-face on the next page to drool over another effort that meets his opaque standards).

Do ethnographers need exotic names to do well in business? A story in Business Week features two guys called ‘J. Wilton L. Agatstein Jr’ (who runs Intel’s new emerging-markets unit) and ‘Timothy deWaal Malefyt’ (an anthropologist who runs ‘cultural discovery’ at ad firm BBDO Worldwide).

Whoah. Racist much, John? Portigal is a pretty funny name. So is Thackera Thackara. What of it?


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