Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Gran Turismo 5 - featuring Bluhalo pt2

We touched upon this over a year ago, but now that the game has finally been released, I thought it was necessary to load the game up and get some high quality images of the Bluhalo logo featured on the Subaru Impreza WRC in this game for real!

Check out the images below!

Friday, 1 October 2010

WebGL - see it in action! (one for the techies)

As keen and conscientious developers, we are always looking for new and more efficient ways of creating our sites. Cool and fun is a bonus. A while ago I briefly talked about WebGL and since I have had a bit of free time I thought it was time to revisit this.

To remind those who lack an eidetic memory / don’t read out blog and aren’t avid techies, WebGL is an attempt by the Khronos Group to develop a cross-platform API to bring the functionality of OpenGL to the web.

It is backed by browser manufacturers Mozilla, Opera, Google and Apple, albeit only in pre-release software thus far. It gets rid of the need for any additional plugins and allows hardware accelerated graphics rendering (where available, in theory software rendering is supported otherwise). Unfortunately, it does still rely on the presence of OpenGL on the target system. A more thorough list of the pros and cons of the WebGL can be found here.

Now, returning to my point (much rejoicing), I have been evaluating /experimenting with WebGL recently. Some time back, I did a lot of work with OpenGL using C++, and then C#, for which NeHe Productions was invaluable; indeed my research suggests it is still a heavily used resource and well worth checking out.

In spite of my super human ability to forget information almost immediately, I have still found myself comparing development with my previous experience. WebGL is an odd beast – it is a low level api, and has no fixed function support. This, combined with the relatively slow speed of JavaScript (the language used to invoke theWebGL functionality) has meant that a project must be approached in a very different way. Without getting too technical, in OpenGL, you would use the wide array of functions available to achieve what you set out to do (initially at least), whereas WebGL requires that you split out some of the calculations to be processed in parallel on the graphics card in the form of Shaders rather than using JavaScript.

This multifaceted coding approach is especially odd compared with Flash development, for which I tend to prefer to mix drawing on the stage (my artistic needs must be satisfied somehow!) with the application code. Like everything else, once you have the right mindset, it is relatively straightforward to create simple examples; indeed for anyone interested I would recommend http://learningwebgl.com/blog/as a good place to start. The lessons offered adhere broadly to those on NeHe, but help introduce the complexities inherent in WebGL development. To give you an idea of what is offered, below is a very simple demo built upon several of his tutorials that I created while first looking into the subject. It’s worth reiterating at this point that current browser releases won’t yet be able to display this – only those with pre-release builds need apply (if you are interested: http://nightly.mozilla.org/ is where I got my test one).

These complexities won’t make any difference to the user, though; indeed the lack of a plugin should eventually make the experience a smoother one overall. It will allow accelerated 2D and 3D graphics to be easily delivered in a cross-browser format without placing the onus on the user to download additional plugins or software beyond the browser itself.

That said, in addition to the previously linked cons, it is worth noting the lack of a proprietary, compiled format does mean that users who choose to can pick apart your WebGL app to see how it works – unless satisfied with JavaScript obfuscation, sites that are very concerned with the security of their proprietary code should maybe look at another solution. Ultimately though, the value of what your site offers should ideally mean more than the way you deliver it, so this shouldn’t dissuade people from considering WebGL when the spec reaches fruition (hopefully later this year).

This will ONLY work if you have a pre-release version of the new browsers. If you fancy have a go at our spinning cube game, download a pre-release version here. For those without the pre-release version of the browsers, there's also a screen capture of it below.

Click within the Cube box to make it work!

Nick Nawrattel
Head of Rich Media

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Liverpool F.C. website reviewed in New Media Age's site review

Today's New Media Age (NMA) reviewed www.liverpoolfc.tv in its site inspection, awarding it a very respectable 76/100.

NMA's Anna Richardson reviewed the website, giving it a score of 20/25 for content, 17/25 for usability, 19/25 for branding and 20/25 for monetisation.

The site, which was developed in conjunction with Liverpool F.C.'s in-house development team has been a great success since launch breaking several previous records - you can read more about that in a previous blog post.

You can read the full site review on the NMA website, but you'll need to be a subscriber.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Bluhalo/GyroHSR is an NMA Top 100 Digital Agency

Another year and the results of the renowned NMA Top 100 Interactive Agencies report were revealed at another memorable event last night.

Bluhalo/GyroHSR came in as 19th in the top 100, ranking as the 11th largest digital marketing agency in the UK. The industry as a whole has grown by 10% on last year's figures, demonstrating that despite difficult economic times, the industry remains buoyant. The growth, likely to have been bolstered largely by reallocations of marketing budgets to digital marketing, thanks to its measurability and ability to accurately measure ROI, bucks the general economic trend of the country and pays testimony to the hard work committed by the agency sector.

You can read the results summary here, with the full table appearing in tomorrow's edition of New Media Age.

Jocelyn Kirby
Marketing & Business Development Manager
Twitter @JocelynKirby

Friday, 3 September 2010

Is Marketing Now Part of the Digital Agency World?

The web is now so much more than a marketing channel. In today's very digital world, it forms such a large part of an organisation's communications, that it really cannot be seen as something to be dealt with as a separate entity. Yet, rather surprisingly, many organisations still treat digital as a separate beast entirely.

I have lost count of the number of conversations I've had where the digital team and the marketing teams work independently of one-another, often seated in different parts of the building, or sometimes in a different building altogether! Yet, this seems crazy. When the digital world is now so much part of our everyday lives, are these organisations' marketing teams missing a trick?

The internet is where a large proportion of our social interactions take place, on sites such as Facebook and Twitter; it's where we often discuss, showcase or incubate our passions - think Flickr for photographers, Etsy for creative arts, online gaming - the list is endless; it's where we conduct our business networking on sites such as LinkedIn; it's where we learn about everything from industry advancements to how to bring up our children... you get the picture. Over the next couple of years we're going to find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between our on and offline lives.

So if all this happens online, why do many organisations still insist on having a separate digital team and marketing team? I think it can largely be attributed to the organic growth of digital, beginning as a niche channel, often viewed as a very techincal discipline (which to some extent it is) which required specialist digital knowledge. As the importance of digital grew, so did the digital team, separately from the marketing team.

Yet with the obvious prevalence of the online channels in today's marketing strategy, are marketers now doing enough to harness the power of the internet?

The importance of an integrated marketing strategy has been clear from the day we coined the phrase 'marketing'. Send out a consistent message through multiple channels and the overall benefits gained are more than single channels of communication executed independently. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We all know this. So what can marketers do to harness the true power of digital?

The first big step towards this is understanding that digital is no longer a separate discipline. Marketers should be versed in both on and offline marketing. If you have a big team, use specialists of course, but the over-arching view should be FULLY INTEGRATED. Yes, some campaigns may run offline only, and some may run online-only, but the overall view should be consistency across ALL channels. By investing in a campaign which hits the target audience at every possible touch point (and online there are many), the results could be astounding. It's just a shame that we don't see more of this.

Digital is not scary. It's amazing! It's a marketers dream - it's trackable down to the minutest detail, you can even track brand sentiment (that's another post entirely), ROI is easily calculable, your target audience can be engaged in two-way conversations, implementation and roll-out can be comparitively instant, multi-variant testing of campaigns can be done at the touch of a button. But possibly most importantly, the digital world is becoming increasingly entwined with our offline worlds - think iPhone apps like MapMyRun, Nike Plus, numerous augmented reality apps. As this merger continues, the importance of a multi-disciplined marketing team will become increasingly apparent. As will the importance of an integrated agency that really is an integrated agency. Bluhalo is lucky enough to be part of an integrated agency network - GyroHSR - where we work as a truly integrated team, harnessing the magic of digital and the power of offline media.

Jocelyn Kirby
Marketing & Business Development Manager
Twitter @JocelynKirby

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ford Releases Its Social Media Guidelines

Ford, often considered one of the more forward-thinking brands in social media has published its social media guidelines for staff, releasing bite-sized tips and pieces of information via Twitter and other social media properties.

Similarly to Coca Cola (more on that here), Ford has kept its guidelines simple and easy to understand, ensuring maximum buy-in from staff and demonstrating its commitment to the communication channel.

The guidelines key messages are based around honesty, clarity, awareness, respect and good judgement - they sound like a recipe for the perfect human being!

You can read the full explanation below:

Ford Social Media Guidelines

Jocelyn Kirby
Marketing & Business Development Manager

Monday, 23 August 2010

Bluhalo Joins .Net Awards Panel

The .net Awards celebrate the best in web design and development, and are brought to you by the world's best-selling magazine for web builders - .net. The 16 categories for 2010 range from Design Agency of the Year and Mobile Site of the Year through to Community site of the year.

Bluhalo's very own Dan Steele and Alastair MacMichael have been invited to join this year's prestigious judging panel, alongside the likes of some of the best-known names in the industry such as Google, Yahoo! and TweetDeck. You can view the impressive line-up by visiting the .net awards judges page. With this many industry experts reviewing entries, it is clear why a .net award is one of the most sought after in our industry, and you can certainly be sure that the winners are going to be well-deserving of the accolade!

The awards are currently at the public voting stage, so if you'd like to voice your opinions on the best of digital this year, you can vote now by visiting the .net awards voting page, public voting closes on 12th October.

Dan Steele, a developer at Bluhalo and previous contributor to .net magazine said "It was a great honour to be invited to be a judge in the awards, I can't wait to see the shortlist!"

Alastair MacMichael, Bluhalo's Managing Director, added "I'm really pleased to have been invited to join this year's panel, the current nominees are so interesting, I think the results of the public vote will be a close one with many nominees worthy of a place on the shortlist. I very much look forward to being involved in the judging process."

Final winners will be announced on 19th November.

Jocelyn Kirby
Marketing & Business Development Manager

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Cassandra from Facebook- not just a pretty name!

Everyone has heard of MySQL and others of its ilk – chances are you talk about nothing else at family get-togethers. Like most database solutions, it is optimised predominantly for reading, the idea being you write your data infrequently but read often (the classic content managed website model). While this model can obviously still be used in the development of the plethora of multi-write social websites, giving as it does a nice balance of performance and ease of use, it isn’t necessarily the ideal solution.

One emerging alternative is an open source distributed database management system called Cassandra. Originally developed and open sourced by Facebook in 2008, Cassandra is a second generation NoSQL top-level Apache Software Foundation project. NoSQL, originally a relational database management system accessed via a Unix shell, is becoming an umbrella term for data storage solutions that don’t follow the traditional relational model. This broad term does mean that the various solutions don’t exactly match up, so what does Cassandra provide?

It is a cluster database providing a structured key-value store with eventual consistency, without any single points of failure (it has no central master). This means that it’s extremely fault tolerant – if any one of the identical nodes fails, another will take its place. As well as this high availability, it also provides write and read scaling – as more nodes are added, read and write throughput increase linearly without interruption.

This all sounds very good, but as with all web technologies, it is best employed carefully – these benefits come at the cost of many of the tools often associated with a traditional database. Nevertheless, when used in the right situation, it can offer a reliable and proven solution as demonstrated by Facebook, Digg, Twitter and others. A discussion of when to use Cassandra is available here.

Outside the project page (linked above), more information can be found here, with a discussion of various NoSQL solutions (including Cassandra) available here.

Nick Nawrattel, Lead Multimedia Developer (wearing his programming cap)

Monday, 9 August 2010

UK Sports Network Event

This Tuesday, the 10th of August sees a return of the UK Sports Networking evening at the Sports Bar And Grill at Marylebone station in London.

On 17th May I attended my first UKSN event. Going down to the basement things were quite literally hotting up. I was astounded by the number of people already chatting away to each other. All credit to the event's organiser, Daniel McLaren, who had persuaded 120 people to attend a relatively new event on a Monday night.

Daniel passed me a champagne bucket & suggested I collect the competition entries myself. Our VIP box at Tottenham Hotspur, (Bluhalo built their website) means I was lucky enough to have 2 tickets to offer the lucky winner on the night.

Going around the room, what a fantastic mix of people! I met someone about to sail around the world, someone with a virtual golf machine, a presenter from Sky Sports, corporates looking for sports sponsorship, fellow sports marketers, merchandisers, software providers, lawyers, the PA, the FA and a few familiar faces along the way.

I have high hopes for this Tuesday’s event where Bluhalo will be once again offering 2 VIP tickets to a Tottenham Hotspur match. If you work in sports I’d definitely recommend the event.

I will finish the post with some words from Daniel McLaren:
“The London Sports Networking event is becoming a firm fixture in the calendar now after our last one back in May attracted over 130 people on the night. This one promises to be even better with great attendees coming from all areas of the sports industry in London. Co-hosting the event with Lewis Howes from www.sportsnetworker.com gives us a fantastic reach with over 30,000 people in our combined groups not to mention websites, Facebook and Twitter! If you are free on Tuesday night and want to meet some great people then make sure you don’t miss out, come on over”

If you fancy coming along, you can buy tickets here.

Laura Hannan
Business Development Manager

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Liverpool F.C. Smashes Web Records

July saw some huge successes for the Liverpool F.C. website, with fans from all over the world logging in to keep up with the latest news, which included a new manager and a new number 10.

By the close of the month, LiverpoolFC.tv had smashed all previous web records, welcoming more than 4m unique visitors to the site, who enjoyed more than 85m pages - what a July! Previous records hadn't even come close to this astounding performance, with past top performance levels for a single month at 65m pages views (in 2005) and 3.4m uniques (in 2009).

The site, which was designed and built by Bluhalo in partnership with Liverpool F.C.'s internal development team, is one of the most popular sports websites on the planet. The news article which reports this huge achievement also notes the importance of its fans in achieving this success; "Thanks to all of you who visited Liverpoolfc.tv during July for continuing to make the official website of LFC one of the most visited football sites on the internet."

Jocelyn Kirby
Marketing & Business Development Manager
Twitter @JocelynKirby

Monday, 26 July 2010

Bluhalo's Farnborough Airshow Event Roundup

Friday saw our bi-annual Airshow event take place, with some fantastic and very un-typically British sunny weather following a more traditional wet morning, which at one point did leave us slightly concerned about the afternoon's event and running to gather as many umbrellas as we could find!

We had a great turnout, with many clients, contacts, partners and suppliers arriving to enjoy the gorgeous weather, great company, delicious food and most importantly, the breathtaking flying displays of some of the world's most impressive planes.

My personal favourites were the Blades, defying gravity with some rather heartstopping aerial acrobatics; and of course the impressive Airbus, showing us that big, can also be agile - although I'm still not sure how it manages to land in Farnborough airport!

Our charity raffle in aid of Cancer Research UK added a bit of extra fun to the day and raised nearly £300 for the charity too - massive thanks to Sequel for donating a Guess watch and to our hosting partner DediPower for donating the Amazon voucher. Thanks also to everyone that came to share the day with us and who bought raffle tickets.

Many of our guests were also plane enthusiasts and keen photographers - there were some great shots captured by Andy Piper and Benjamin Ellis; and not at our event, but with shots as good as this, certainly worth a mention - a local photographer's record of the Airshow.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Alastair Macmichael becomes Bluhalo Agency Head

Following the recent departure of Bluhalo's Founder, Spencer Gallagher, Alastair Macmichael has taken over as managing director.

Alastair joined Bluhalo, GyroHSR’s pure-play digital agency, in May 2010 from 20:20 (formerly GraphicoDMG) where he headed up work with clients including Pepsi UK and its sub brands, London Eye and Britvic. During his eight years at the agency, he had responsibility for driving the agency’s digital strategy and most recently held the role of director of business development.

The appointment is designed to further enhance Bluhalo’s global footprint plans and support GyroHSR’s global offering. Founded 11 years ago, Bluhalo was recently named a top 10 digital marketing agency by New Media Age. In the UK some of its largest clients include Liverpool FC, Technicolor and Blackberry/RIM.

Commenting on the appointment, GyroHSR CEO, Richard Glasson said; “Alastair joins Bluhalo with a truly impressive pedigree in the digital world, and will further strengthen our expertise in this core discipline. Digital business accounts for over 40% of GyroHSR's world-wide revenues. It's an area that we continue to invest in, and in which we expect further strong growth. I'm delighted to welcome Al to the company”.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sponsor Our Trailwalker!

Bluhalo’s Dan Steele will be taking part in the Oxfam trailwalker in July, a 60 mile non-stop ‘walk’ over rough terrain across the South Downs from Petersfield to Brighton. He’ll be walking through the night, clocking up almost 30 hours of walking time along the way!

It’s his first endurance event and he’s gone straight in for a big one! He needs to raise at least £500 for the charity and needs your help to get there!

If you feel you can help (even if it’s just a couple of pounds) he’d be really grateful! To sponsor Dan, visit Virgin Money Giving and please give what you can. Everyone that sponsors Dan by 18th July will be in with the chance of winning 8 tickets to Bluhalo's VIP executive box at Tottenham Hotspur for the game vs Villarreal on Thursday 29th July at 8pm. The prize isn't transferable (so you can't sell it on eBay), but you can take all your friends along with you - you'll be sure to see a celeb or WAG or two! To secure your entry into the draw, drop Dan an email once you've sponsored him(dan@bluhalo.com)!

Thanks for your support!

Friday, 18 June 2010

HTML 5 - the conversation continues

The web seems to be saturated with talk about HTML 5. Many people know what HTML 5 is – it’s the next big thing! It’s a new technology that does everything and destroys Adobe Flash! It makes computers run faster and does the tea run - a-mazing! Unfortunately, this isn’t all necessarily quite true (although I still have hopes the tea run can get sorted in a later revision of the spec).

There is no doubt that there is a lot of anticipation for what HTML 5 will bring, with Google, Microsoft and Apple all touting it as the way forward; however the term is being increasingly misused leading to it “becoming the next overloaded term” as Michael Mullany describes it here.

If one were to be pedantic about it, as our blog has touched on before, HTML 5 is simply a revision of the HTML spec. The core HTML 5 changes that will be user-visible include the canvas (allowing graphics to be rendered to the screen), audio and video tags. Under the hood, there are also a number of semantic additions and new mark-up to make html code cleaner, accessibility features, a drag and drop API, user-editable content and content caching directives.
It is also necessary to combine a number of other tools that fall within what some are calling the HTML 5 family in order to produce all of the demonstrations that have been emerging from proponents of the technology. Chief among these is CSS3, which is again not yet a completed specification (it is in fact a number of developing sub-specifications). As well as the expected improvements (like rounded corners, improved layout control, borders and backgrounds), CSS3 also includes a number of features such as 2D and 3D animations for boxed content; in fact a lot of what some people think is HTML 5 is actually CSS3.

Another technology that is instrumental in building up the HTML 5 family portfolio is Web Storage. As the name suggests, this basically offers both temporary and persistent local storage allowing for the development of sites that can continue to function even if connection is lost.

Other technologies that fall within the HTML 5 family include Geolocation (i.e. making the users location more accurately available by using WiFi towers and GPS to augment existing IP address detection), Web Workers (allowing the web site to become threaded to better allow the browser to schedule rendering while taking advantage of multi-core CPUs), and Web Sockets (allowing asynchronous client/server communication). More about these technologies can be found in Michael Mullany’s article linked to above.

Most of these specs are in various stages of development, meaning that features can be dropped as well as added before they are finalised (for example, a file upload progress component is currently on thin ice). In spite of this, there are web pages being built using the latest draft versions of the spec (links to which can be found here).

There are also a number of technical demos that are being released. One series of demonstrations recently released by Apple displaying what can be achieved via the HTML 5 suite of technologies can be found here.

As impressive as these demos are, some feel this is misleading the public with regards to the HTML 5 browser availability – upon attempting to view one of the Apple demonstrations, unless you are running Apple's own Safari 5, an error message is displayed stating the necessity of this browser. The reason this has been divisive is that rather than necessarily being a true indication of ability (or lack thereof) of your browser, it is something that is artificially enforced by the site simply by checking your browser agent.

Part of this may be due to the presence of vendor prefixes (browser specific versions of the implementation), meaning that this open standard is not yet truly open. However all is not lost - most recent browser releases support the HTML 5 family to varying degrees, as detailed here, or perhaps a bit more recently and simply here. As the specification is more firmly established, these vender specific implementations will disappear and the open implementation that is envisioned will emerge.

So with the use of javascript (or jQuery if you prefer) making far more sophisticated interaction possible, does this mean we no longer need Adobe Flash? While this may well change over time, right now Flash is still a useful way to get rich content to the many people who already have the plug-in installed – advanced effects or intricate interactive web apps are more easily constructed in Flash.

Also, some features such as multiple file uploads are just not yet available (hence Google's Gmail still relying on Flash for its file upload feature). Hulu, who recently released the US equivalent of the BBC’s iPlayer, opted to use Flash saying that HTML 5 was just not ready to meet their requirements (read more here).

Nevertheless, HTML 5 is a convenient shorthand for a very powerful and exciting family of technologies, and while it is not yet suitable for every project it is something we are all considering, and one for which we have high hopes!

Nick Nawrattel
Lead Multimedia Developer

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Media Consumption Trends Amongst Children

With the subject of children and their media consumption always a hot topic for discussion, we decided to take a look at how the consumption habits of children are looking in more recent times. We carried out a variety of research approaches, including a survey and 3rd party research resources. I've provided a brief summary of the results below - if you'd like to know more, please drop us an email and we will send you the full research report.

Firstly, we took a look at the different types of media that children consume. Unsurprisingly, the 12-16 age groups showed the highest percentage of media consumption across all types of media. What was more interesting however, was the prevalence of the 5-7 age group as major consumers of television, games consoles and computers - with a higher percentage in the 5-7 age group than the 8-11 across the three activities. Mobile phone usage increases significantly with age, as would be expected, with close to 100% penetration amongst the 12-16 year olds. Television still achieves the highest penetration with close to 100% consumption across each age group, leaving us to wonder - what damage / good does TV advertising do to our children, given the high levels of exposure? A question for another time!

Mobile phone usage was an interesting one, with the most popular activity a mobile being used for across both the 5-7 and 8-11 age groups being games. It is not until the children reach the 12-16 age group, that we really see the social uses of the mobile phone emerge, with this age group showing heavier use for both calls and texting, accountable for 2/3 of usage, with games, video and music making up the remaining 1/3.

Online consumption results mirrored many recent research reports, with social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo showing strong prevalence in both the 8-11 and 12-16 age groups, despite the minimum age for members of 13 years. YouTube was popular across the age groups, with many of the younger age group's online usage being largely parent-led and linked to television consumption - being driven to websites for TV channels such as CBeebies, Disney etc.

With complete digital media immersion clearly a way of life for the younger generations, an increasing number of exciting opportunities to engage with our target audiences will emerge. Improved targeting, niche campaigns, increased return on investment and better audience conversations will all be possible for brands that embrace a truly integrated approach, accepting digital not simply as another channel, but as marketing itself.

Jocelyn Kirby
Marketing & Business Development Manager
Twitter @JocelynKirby

Research carried out by:
Laura Hannan
Twitter @bluhalolaura

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Time of Mobile Commerce

Mobile advertising is big business. Ever since 2000, when a small Finnish newspaper offered free, advertising-sponsored news headlines via SMS, businesses have been trying to cash-in by advertising on the mobile platform.

Fast forward to 2010 and mobiles are owned by 98% of the UK population, outnumber desktops by 5 to 1, and the mobile advertising industry is worth $546 million. This is currently made up of just under two thirds SMS text ads, one third display ads (including in-app) and the rest mobile search. Even Google and Apple endorse the platform with their respective purchases of AdMob ($750 million) and Quattro Wireless ($250 million).

A recent report from UK-based research company Coda predicts that mobile advertising will grow to $2.2 billion in 5 years. The numbers are more than respectable; however, the same report expects mobile commerce to grow by 65% annually to reach $24 billion in 2015, or 7.7% of all ecommerce revenue. For so long mobile advertising was heralded as the best way for brands to leverage the mobile channel, but recent reports seem to suggest that while mobile advertising is in a buoyant state, it is m-commerce that that will rule the time of the mobile.

Mobile commerce has come a long way from the days of buying ringtones from premium rate numbers. As phones became more powerful and 3G more prominent, larger goods and services started to be sold over the mobile network. First it was intangible goods such as games and applications. Then fast food companies such as Starbucks and Papa John’s started accepting takeaway orders through their mobile websites. Major players eBay and Amazon brought the platform to the mainstream, selling tangible goods analogous to their main site through their dedicated mobile channels. In fact, in October 2009 eBay announced it had already made $380 million in sales through mobile commerce, including a $750,000 Lamborghini!

As well as location independent shopping, m-commerce has the potential to be used to streamline any transaction. In Vienna, Austria, people regularly pay their parking meters via mobile. Stayed over your 2 hours? No problem, just text the meter – this is starting to take off in the UK too. In Lagos, Nigeria, migrant workers use mobile phones to transfer money without exorbitant transaction costs. And in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, The Red Cross raised $7 million in mobile donations within 3 days of the earthquake there.

Back in the UK, Marks & Spencer recently rolled out a new bespoke m-commerce store, and Argos are busy finalizing theirs, but why, this time, are companies so sure m-commerce is here to stay? Because this time the paradigm is user driven. Mobile commerce is not a passing fad or technology for its own sake; it is the natural result of consumers’ desire for convenience and location independent transactions. As long as the internet is within reach there is no reason why full commerce shouldn’t be too. And these days the internet is always within reach.

Mobile commerce has been growing steadily for a while, but now both businesses and consumers are ready and able to embrace it: the time of m-commerce is here.

Mark Laskey
Multimedia Developer

Thursday, 13 May 2010

More on Adobe & Apple...

On April 12th, rumours started circulating (eg IT World's article) that Adobe was considering legal action against Apple for opting to disallow cross-compiled applications. (My brief summary of that can be viewed [http://bluhalo.com/blog/view/292/cs5-apple-vs-adobe).

One might wonder on exactly what grounds such a lawsuit would be based. Indeed, it’s quite possible that Adobe’s lawyers wondered the same thing (assuming there was truth to the rumour in the first place) given that nothing has since emerged on this subject.

In fact all went quiet until Adobe announced (read the BBC article here) that they were going to cease development on the iPhone packager, with the company instead focusing on Android. In a move that came as a surprise to some (read the Register's Apple on Flash) Apple head honcho Steve Jobs subsequently released a document detailing his views on the subject (which can be read here). He lists a number of points ranging from the proprietary nature of flash, security, battery life and the speed with which the third party software would be updated as justification for his views. The result of this was a 2 percent drop in Adobe shares.

You could be forgiven for expecting a retaliatory response from Adobe; instead they announced (more at The Register) that they were working to implement new API calls available on Snow Leopard to hardware accelerate video in Flash. Given that fairly simple tests indicated that the lack of hardware acceleration was the only reason the video performance of flash fell below that of the HTML setup touted by Steve Jobs, this has the potential to reduce the belief that flash is a performance hog (for video anyway).

Hooray, Apple and Adobe are friends again. What could possibly go wrong now, right? Well, Apple is developing their own Flash alternative for providing Rich Internet Applications. The easily spelt Gianduia was first introduced last June, but is likely going to resurface at this year’s World of WebObjects Developer Conference. Gianduia was written in Javascript and has actually already been used by Apple Retail (read more here from Apple Insider).

It is still not plain sailing for Apple however. It has now emerged that the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are “locked in negotiations over which of the watchdogs will begin an antitrust inquiry into Apple’s new policy of requiring only Apple’s programming tools.” (read more at the NY Post)

This reiterates that Adobe were not the only ones unhappy with Apple’s decision. Indeed, the same article states some are now choosing to finance apps compatible with all of Apple’s competitors, rather than just the iProducts. Although Apple tend to be quite dogmatic in following their roadmap, I can’t help but wonder exactly how much public pressure it would take for them to change their minds…

Nick Nawrattel
Lead Multimedia Developer

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

World Cup Buzz

Just 37 days to go to the 2010 World Cup and I, like all football fans, am very, very excited. But you know who is even more excited by the upcoming 'super event'? Businesses. According to Reuters, the tournament is expected to attract over 6 billion viewers and average over 93 million per match. Viewing figures for the 2006 final vary wildly between 280 million and 1 billion, but either way it is the most watched event of the year by a substantial margin. Furthermore, entire economies can be shifted upwards by 10% by the 'positive atmosphere' and overwhelming need for official merchandise, plasma TVs and cold beverages) - (read more on the world cup's effect on the economy).

Marketing departments large and small the world over have been planning for months or even years on how best to leverage the World Cup impact. From big players such as Visa and Coca Cola that can afford to drop $100million on official rights before their campaigns even begin, to rivals latching on by associating themselves with all things Africa and Football, one thing is clear: digital will play a bigger role than ever before.

Coca Cola recently launched a campaign based around goal celebrations and African dancing. As well as traditional marketing focusing on the positive aspects of celebration and dance, they are also embarking on a widespread social media campaign, asking people to send in their own goal celebrations in order to win tickets to games. Carlsberg are taking a similar approach, inviting England fans to video their own world cup team talk.

Official partner Visa decided to continue their 'Life flows better with Visa' campaign but this time with a world cup tie-in. We have all seen the Visa powered fan become a professional footballer on TV, but thanks to widespread integration, the campaign is estimated to have been seen or heard 2.2 billion more times over 532 different platforms. Convergence anyone?

Pepsi is not an official partner but gained a lot of viral publicity through their integrated 'Oh Africa' campaign. The campaign featured top players and music stars in an Africa-themed football video advert combined with a major social presence including content such as outtakes, interviews and alternative versions.

The 2010 World Cup will be the first truly social edition. In the last four years Facebook and Twitter have become household names with over 500 million combined users. For the first time it is not just possible but easy to communicate with fans from every other team, from Algeria to Uruguay. The scope for marketers is virtually unlimited, never before has there been such a large one-to-one bridge between companies and dedicated consumers, with an increased opportunity for long-term relationships that just aren’t possible in the same way with print or TV adverts.

The defining social football campaigns will only be apparent as we get closer to the final whistle, but an interesting pre-game warm-up comes from Sony Ericsson’s Twittercup, an app which tracks the best nations at the world cup by their Twitter buzz in real time.

Mark Laskey
Multimedia Developer

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Sport and New Media Conference 2010

This inaugural event in the digital calendar for Sports professionals took place last Wednesday at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

The introductions by SportBusiness told us that Manchester was chosen to host the event because the sport industry in the North West employs 100,000+ people, has a £6.5bn turnover, and the North West represents 40% of the Premier League. In addition to this Manchester has a huge digital community.

Our very own parent company, GyroHSR, has an office in Manchester, so we are regularly making trips to the North West. For this occasion, Bluhalo had 3 representatives, Simon, our Account Director who has had lots of digital sport experience most notably with Liverpool FC; our Founder and MD, Spencer, who still surprises me with the number of people he knows, and me, Laura, a relative newbie in digital sports, but quickly making up for lost time!

Attendees at the conference included BBC, Eurosport, UEFA, Chelsea FC, Adidas, SkySports as well as ComScore, YouTube and BT.

So BBC kicked off with the Head of Interactive BBC Sport & Formula 1, Ben Gallop, giving a great presentation on the way digital is being spearheaded by BBC Sport. Watch BBC Sport for developments, exciting times to come, and many fantastic things already happening.

For example, you can watch Formula 1 from a different camera depending on whose car you wish to follow. Also, no longer will you only watch the Olympics events chosen by someone at the BBC. The BBC plan to cover every single hour of the Olympics in 2012 – great news!

Ben sees the Olympics as a perfect time for us as a nation, occurring just as digital becomes mainstream. He likened it to the increase in TV watching for the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

The day was a mixture of presentations, panel discussions and networking which were rather focused on social media. Of course, we imagine most brands to be using the social media tools being discussed already, but perhaps not, and for those still making first steps it would have been very useful.

The discussions that interested us most were those that touched on Web 3.0. The ability to hold your phone up to find your way around Wimbledon using augmented reality, for example.

The commercialisation of sports videos was interesting; David Kerr from Eurosport said that the smaller sports still do better when packaged with the more mainstream sports. However, other speakers felt that the niche sports had an opportunity to charge subscription from their supporters.

Alistair Hill, a senior analyst from ComScore did a great presentation on the stats of mobile usage to help attendees see where there were opportunities to converse with their audience. One of his comments was that mobiles are being used more for connecting people than searching. (Interestingly, Facebook is now more popular on mobiles than PCs) Of course, this is what telephones were traditionally intended for, so it makes sense when you think of it.

Alistair went on to say that although Facebook is more popular than Google on mobiles, having a 33% reach, as opposed to a 31% reach, the average page views are 640 per visitor, way over Google, showing facebook is taking up half of the total media time on mobile phones.

As the discussions continued, it was good to hear the general agreement that whatever you use, Facebook, Twitter and so on, don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it. It has to be useful and accessible to your audience.

Other comments worth taking home were that trends for the future would be people watching a screen, not a TV – Samsung’s internet on TV was mentioned. I was glad to hear I was bucking a trend as I personally threw away my TV a few weeks ago, I decided I could watch programmes through my computer when it suited me and save space by not having 2 screens. How 21st century of me!

The panellists also predicted watching sport casually on demand would increase (e.g. keeping track of a couple of minutes of test cricket during your working day). Watch out bosses, but at least there may be less ‘whole day skiving’ for the World Cup this year!

Personalisation is also predicted to increase, with geo-tagged or requested advertisements giving more impact to the user and more “bang for its buck”.

Closing comment that was made by more than one, was that the event should be re-named “Sports and digital” as new media was ‘new’ around 10 years ago. (Spencer probably tweeted this in the morning which meant it got a mention on the stage by the afternoon! That’s the wonder of social media)

So, I hope this has given you a little insight. There is a more complete, and a somewhat less opinionated agenda breakdown written by the lovely people I met from Braben PR on PR Week.

Laura Hannan
Business Development Manager
Twitter @bluhalolaura

Friday, 23 April 2010

Marketing to Children & Advertising to Teens

With Brand Republic reporting Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Diner Dash Lite game ‘king of the apps’ over Easter, and Hitwise reporting a drop in UK usage for social networking site Bebo, signs of children’s changing digital behaviours are everywhere, yet how can we predict what will be the ‘next big thing’?

The most popular websites for children are often websites with a commercial end, or sites surrounding TV or films such as Lego, Disney, Cartoon Network and CBeebies.

As they get older, communication and social networking become more appealing. An Ofcom survey found a quarter of 8-12 year olds have a profile on social networking sites despite them being under the minimum age for such sites. LimeWire and Frengo are popular among teenagers, showing the appeal of group messaging, mobiles, sharing music, images and videos.

One thing agencies and brands must be constantly aware of is that children are susceptible to advertising. The youngest can often struggle to distinguish between reality and advertising messages. Teenagers will turn off when brands try too hard to be cool, or fall into stereotyping their age-group.

Marketing or advertising messages that young people can personally relate to, will most likely succeed. The message should be clear, simple and specific. Vague terminology or representation can be a turn-off. Brands that reach out to young people through schools, local events, on the high-street or through celebrities will often hold a lasting impression. They are more likely to remember you if they understand exactly what you do and how you relate to them.

Marketing and advertising to children can be an ethical minefield, but with companies such as McDonald’s spending $2billion a year, it’s big business. Bluhalo’s advice would be to do your homework, know the regulations, ask an expert and assume nothing!

Laura Hannan
Business Development Manager
Twitter @bluhalolaura

Monday, 19 April 2010

Web Accessibility and Website Law

Websites started out as very simple text which was accessible to everyone, provided they had software to interpret the contents. In the last ten years, websites have altered dramatically to include movies, Flash and dynamic content, such that the job of the software reading the website has become a great deal more complex. The disabled could easily be overlooked in designing and building websites, however this would be an unwise decision since there are laws in many countries to protect them.

The UK Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 states: “It is unlawful for a provider of services to discriminate against a disabled person in refusing to provide, or deliberately not providing, to the disabled person any service which he provides, or is prepared to provide, to members of the public and also in failing to comply with any duty imposed on him by section 21 in circumstances in which the effect of that failure is to make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the disabled person to make use of any such service

And further the law states that rules apply in the following scenarios:
Access to and use of any place which members of the public are permitted to enter; access to and use of means of communication; access to and use of information services; facilities by way of banking or insurance or for grants, loans, credit or finance; facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment; the services of any profession or trade, or any local or other public authority.

Most websites fulfil at least one of the above conditions – whether it be buying an item or communicating to friends. Mostly though, lawsuits have been targeted at websites providing a public service; after all if one site doesn’t provide access, another will.

The basics behind making a site available to all haven’t changed all that much over the years, most importantly the developers and designers need to bear in mind the various disabilities there are and how they will be gaining access to the information available...

People with disabilities may for example want to increase font size, have their own styles or be unable to use an alternative to Flash or Shockwave. In each case, alternative content / functionality should be available so that no loss of user experience occurs. Testing the site by using focus groups is the ultimate check, and testing services are offered by charities including RNIB, AbilityNet and Shaw Trust.

Sources/Further reading:

Alex Rigg

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

CS5 & Apple vs Adobe

Creative Suite 5 is nearly upon us – so close I am already nudging our resident sys admin to buy us the shiny new apps. Obviously, there are many new features / changes to encourage people to upgrade.

One such that certainly sounds interesting, is a tool providing the ability to export flash as HTML5 Canvas. With IE9 on the horizon too, this will mean all of the major browsers will support HTML5, a step towards making this a viable alternative to the Flash plug-in. More on this here and again with a performance comparison between Flash and HTML5 here.

As you may or may not have heard by now, another eagerly anticipated feature was the ability to export flash apps as iPhone code. Apple have very recently announced that they have changed the way their SDK works – only code written in C, C++ or Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs. Cross-compilers, such as that advertised to be in the new CS release, are apparently banned. This will potentially affect a number of other technologies (e.g. Unity3D), but the Adobe link is the most publicised given the public deterioration in their relationship with Apple.

Given this bad blood between Apple and Adobe, the cynical might wonder if the announcement was deliberately timed to dampen the build up to the CS5 launch. It is definitely a blow to the product, and prompted an Adobe employee to post a frustrated response to the move (more here, including links). Steve Jobs has since responded to this (more here) with a customarily curt reply, not giving any hope to those hoping for Apple to change their mind.

Nevertheless, I am still looking forward to trying the new Creative Suite, even without the opportunity to try my hand at iPhone development. More on CS5 here.

Nick Nawrattel
Lead Multimedia Developer

We’re Loving: Car & Motorsport site designs

The automotive industry is arguably one of the most competitive industries out there. With so much to choose from, it’s no surprise that the websites for these machines are just as creatively driven as the car itself..excuse the pun! Elegance, speed and power combine to outshine the rivalry…and this carries through to their web presence.

Whether it’s Porsche or Kia, fun, interactive, minimal or intricate, car websites cover all the bases, and are often the most visual and imaginative creative you’ll come across. The feel and personality the site works to achieve will be perfectly balanced, with the user immersed in clear information while being blown away by superb visuals.

The primary audience changes depending on the car, and just from these 15 examples, you get the range of attributes that’ve been considered so that the car is portrayed in the right light. There’s always an innovative idea behind them, and always perfectly from the initial design, to the flash transissions.

Dodge Ram

Porsche 911 Turbo

Virgin Racing

Toyota Prius

BMW Cinetique

Amilo Car

Ford Ka


Skoda Fabia

Bentley Sport

Ford Mustang

Mercedes Benz AMG




Pete White
Digital Designer

Twitter pete_white

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Flash on Chrome

Some interesting multimedia news that emerged on Tuesday (via the Chromium blog) is that Google will be integrating the Adobe Flash plug-in in future builds of its Chrome browser. Already integrated in their developer build, the intention is to make the plug-in more easily available to users (i.e. no separate download), but also to improve on security: the plug-in will be updated via Chrome's own auto-update mechanisms and will benefit from future sandboxing enhancements.

This is a continuation of Google's work (proposed last summer) to produce a new browser plug-in API. The blog post mentions Adobe and Mozilla (and "the broader community" - no MS?) as helping to define this new API with the intention of allowing plug-in to be "just as fast, stable and secure as the browser's HTML and JavaScript engines." It is also expected to allow more seamless interaction between plug-in and HTML etc.

Several reports on this development have commented on how this is a response to Google's relationship with Apple (who are notoriously resistant to allowing flash on their iPhone / iPod Touch / iPads). Whether or not that is true, given the recent mutters of Flash dying in the face of HTML 5, I find it somewhat ironic that this significant Flash development would be coming from such a strong proponent of HTML 5. I also find myself wondering what impact this will have on the Google Chrome OS…

Nick Nawrattel
Lead Multimedia Developer

Friday, 26 March 2010

Bluhalo Hunts for Junior Digital Designer

Bluhalo is again expanding its team, and this time is on the hunt for a Junior Digital Designer to join its award-winning creative team.

The position has an immediate start with salary subject to experience. The ideal candidate will have 1-2 years’ digital agency experience, although this is not essential. The most important thing is talent and a willingness to learn from senior creatives at this NMA top 10 digital agency.

So if you fancy no London commute, great career opportunities, working with award-winning creatives and big brand clients, email your CV and a link to your online portfolio.