Tuesday, 12 October 2010

3D Graphics & CGI for Online Content Marketing

Creative Content for your Blog or Website
By Ashley Taylor


I’ve been creating commercial 3D graphics for about 10 years now. I started out just as Woody and Buzz Lightyear burst on the scene with the first Toy Story.

photo realistic product images in 3D
And things have changed. A lot. Back in the mid 90s it would take me days to render a still image that looked pretty plastic. Now it takes a few hours to create something you could easily mistake for a photograph.

And it’s given creative people so much freedom. Not just the Hollywood directors, but the marketing people too.

Want to see a car transform into an ice skating robot? No problem. How about one celebrity’s head talking on top of another’s body?

And then there’s the 3D you don’t know about. Health and beauty creatives, I’m looking at you.

But that’s the big brands with the big budgets, isn’t it? What about 3D graphics for the rest of us?

Well, that’s my territory. 3D graphics can and is being used by smart marketers and graphic designers, without the Hollywood price tag.

So let me show you where 3D rocks. Where it knocks traditional photography and illustration into a tin hat.

Bring Products to Life

studio photography, or 3D?
Everyone loves those pristine studio shots of their products floating in white space. Nowadays, a whole lot of them are not photos but 3D graphics. Why? A 3D artist like me can create photo-realistic product images for the same kind of price as studio photography. And with 3D, if you want to change a few dimensions, add a new label, alter the lighting, the angle, go from pink to lilac, you don’t have to pay for a whole new photo shoot. For me, it’s simple tweak and re-render. And once I’ve created a product in 3D it’s very easy to animate it as eye-catching web content on your own site or social media sites like You Tube. And you don't get any reflections of the camera in your shiny surfaces.


Buildings for Print or Online Brochures

Architectural visualisation – or arch-viz as we 3D geeks like to call it – includes creating 3D buildings before they are built, or re-creating buildings that have been lost or ruined.

It’s perhaps 3Ds most traditional application, but it’s also an amazing area in the future.

Arch-viz 3D is very handy when you need glossy brochures for a prestigious housing development, but the ‘houses’ are in reality a muddy field. But it’s not just stills. I’ve also done animations of house extensions for clients to help them get planning permission.

And then there’s the cut-away diagram and the exploded diagram, showing what’s going on under the roof or under the ground – literally.

3D arch viz created to sell houses not yet built
3D can also come into its own with exhibition space, tried and tested with a 3D walkthrough. If you’re the agency pitching to win the work, or you’re on the board deciding what design to spend your funding on, a walkthrough animation really helps test an idea before you lift a hammer.

But my favourite arch-viz is the historical stuff. Turning a ruined abbey back into a living building.

To create a detailed Cistercian abbey in 3D, have children download it as an app on an iPad which detects their exact location, then watch them walking round the site holding up the iPad as a moving window to the past. Now that’s a commission I want!

Reveal Your Brand’s Hidden Processes

3D process animations for web and exhibitions
A lot of marketing effort goes into explaining a process. The trouble is, processes can be complex and hidden. They can happen inside machines, in toxic environments, at molecular levels, at global levels. A camera cannot capture these things, but 3D can. My animations can pass through metal, zoom in or out at speed, slow things down or speed them up. It’s really the best way to ensure your customer ‘gets’ a concept – and “getting” it is 95% of the way towards “wanting” it.

But it’s not just sales. There’s also education. A recent fire safety animation of mine highlighted the key fire hazards in the home; this is not shifting product but saving lives.

We’ve all seen the obviously fake room set alight with the locked-off camera recording events. With a 3D animation the viewer is not tucked in a distant corner. They can be taken right to the heart of the fire and come away thinking about their home and how to make it safer.

Explanations for You Tube and Squidoo Lens

Text and still images are notoriously poor at explaining how to do things. Just try explaining how to tie a bow with only words! Video is better, but 3D graphics can give insights that are just not possible with a camera.

Have a look at this animation I did that explains how to install an edge protection system on a building site. Not only does it explain how the product works, it also gets across its USP – speed – in a sexy and convincing way.

video


So that’s my take the main marketing challenges where 3D graphics are the tool to use.

Did anything surprise you? Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment. It would be great to know what you think.

To watch Ashley’s latest 3D graphic work, click this link to see his 3D graphics at Push Creativity's website.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Passion for Podcasting

by Katie Anderson 

Ever since I could talk, I loved an audience. I didn’t speak for a rather long time when I was small but once I started there was no stopping me. 

I used to host radio shows from my bedroom with a tape recorder and BT telephone and invite listeners to participate in my programmes. I don’t remember much about this now of course but some old school friends I was recently reunited with on Facebook reminded me how coming to my house to play after school inevitably involved an appearance on my radio show before tea. 

I love narration and am fascinated by the use of storytelling in history as a means of sharing and teaching the next generation. Just as you or I will remember priceless information about things we have learned aurally since we were young, there’s a place in business for this too. What better way of spreading the word and sharing information? A professional podcast is a fantastic way of engaging your customers and putting yourself out there in the big pool of podcasters on the web. It’s only natural we should teach in this way after all. Think about it, it’s the way we’ve always learned about new things; from listening to Granny showing you how to make a most fabulous apple pie, reading aloud at bedtime or tuning in to your favourite radio show. The key is finding a performance that holds your attention long enough to teach you about things, people, culture and places we have yet to understand in our everyday lives. Our attention span isn’t long either, a good broadcaster has only a few seconds before their listener starts fiddling with the dial. 

The fantastic thing about modern broadcasting is that you don’t have to have a job within a large broadcasting corporation to write, produce and air your programmes. Podcasting is fast becoming a respected means of broadcasting factual and fictional information by drawing in listeners over the web from a far wider reach than a local radio station can. In fact, businesses are using podcasting to bring customers to their websites for an entertaining experience, offering them more than just shopping. Think about all the added benefits of SEO content a podcast can bring to your website. It is a great way to show off your expertise, specialist skills, interact and keep clients coming back time and time again. Make your business an interesting place to be and watch and see how your relationship with your customer grows. From a journalistic point of view it’s a much more challenging way of shouting about what you do than churning out press releases and adds fun and value to your ever growing business.

So, in essence, think of podcasting like a game of tag. Social media like facebook and twitter give us an instant online presence and you can even track your followers and statistics on the number of people driven back to your homepage. Take blogs, where like here , you can read and learn about what a business or organisation is planning or doing right now, or a podcast that you can listen to again and again and the possibilities are endless. With a podcast you can instantly stream your broadcast via specialist websites to reach potential new clients all over the world. 

From complicated marketing campaigns, charts, spreadsheets and pointless information overload, we’ve come full circle and are using aural communication like never before to get our message across. Marketing your business today is about humanising what you do, making yourself accessible and speaking in plain English. As is true in everyday life, the simplest way to spread the word is by telling someone face to face, or ear to ear as it were, about what you know and inviting them to listen and pass the information on.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hold the Front Page!


Creating newsletters that get your brand noticed
by Jill Tomlinson

News is wall to wall. 24/7. Non-stop. When you’re trying to connect with customers, it’s not easy to make your voice heard above the din. No wonder the humble newsletter has stepped forward as one of the most powerful marketing opportunities for brand builders.

Online or offline, the newsletter is an astonishingly valuable marketing tool. Unlike many other promotional formats, it speaks for itself as well as supporting your brand’s core mission. It brings the weight of editorial-style credibility.

Subscribers are pure gold

Opt-in lists double this power. Subscribers are pure gold for marketers. They tell you in positive terms they want to join your inner circle and find out more about your brand. They want to know about you regularly. If you do the right thing by these valuable people and reward them with brilliant content, they’ll reward you with strong, profitable connections over the long term.

Be anything but dull

Given the benefits, why on earth are so many newsletters dull, long-winded and self-promoting? Get your content right and you’ll stand head and shoulders above this kind of lazy mediocrity. Give your readers what they want and deserve: fresh, relevant content that informs, excites and interests.

DO make your newsletter:

• newsy
• exciting
• informative
• helpful
• funny
• involving
• full of real people, stories and opinions

DON’T make your newsletter:

• selly
• dull
• corporate
• long-winded
• self-congratulatory

Keep it fresh

Genuinely interesting content does much more than promote short-term sales. It builds loyalty, forms brand advocates, creates inclusion and encourages feedback. As your brand expresses its personality, so readers deepen their emotional connection with it. They enjoy the sense of participation that comes from being part of this exclusive group.

Online newletters:

• drive traffic to landing pages and web pages
• are economical to create and distribute
• bring feedback
• provide useful analytics

Online, the benefits of plentiful new content are vast. E newsletters give linking opportunities that drive traffic to landing pages and web pages. They also boost your brand’s SEO efforts by supplying the generous new content search engines love.

Observing online content rules is vital to ensure the best results. Keep e-news copy concise. It’s tiring to read a lot of words on-screen so keep it quick and scannable. Encourage opens with irresistible email headers and tempt readers to linger with content that’s fresh, lively and easy to digest.

Offline newsletters:

• are easy to read (people like paper!)
• look and feel great
• have ‘hang around’ value with longer life
• are read by other people as well as subscribers

Offline, the newsletter gives a little more scope in terms of time and space.
Draw people in with real life tales, people and places, useful advice, ‘how to’ lists, top tips and insider details that take the reader behind the scenes of your brand.

Give your newsletter the time and attention it deserves and so will your readers. Who could resist?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Who's afraid of big, bad article marketing?

By Lesley Tither

Years ago, I used to be a journalist. Feel free to boo and hiss. I did the pre-entry college training, worked as an apprentice with a newspaper group in Greater Manchester and have a certificate to wave to prove it all. 

For a while I flirted with other roles. Then as the new millennium dawned with a flurry of fireworks, it was time to take up the mighty pen once more to earn a crust as a freelance copywrter. 

Except that in the intervening years, quite a few things had changed. I'd thought I was pretty up to the mark being able to bash an electric typewriter at top speed. Suddenly it was all computers, and I'd never even switched one on. And there was this new phenomenon – electronic mail. I felt a bit like Catweazle, being suddenly catapulted into the future. 

It seemed that every day brought now challenges. Learning curve? It sometimes felt like trying to cycle up Everest with a flat tyre. Luckily I had good friends, and colleagues who became great friends, who held my hand, calmed me down, and translated my computer's hissy fits into manageable setbacks for me. 

Never dull, always exciting, usually pressurised, I found the work fascinating. One day I might be writing about nature and the environment, my main interests. Another day I would be flirting with fashion, only glad clients couldn't see my normal grunge army attire as I wrote about their glamorous glad-rags. 

A year or so ago Sarah asked me to do some Article Marketing for her. I nonchalantly agreed, and once I'd scoured Google to find out what the Dickens it was, I made an uplifting discovery. I already knew exactly how to do it. It's just another name for journalism. Just another way of saying write a piece that reads well and informs the reader without preaching or talking down to them. 

Getting the keywords right 

There are a couple of 21st century extras to bear in mind. Like keywords. Everyone writing online content these days knows what they are, and knows all the tools to help you pick the best. But the trick is not to come up with keywords you'd search on yourself to find your article. 

You have to put yourself into the shoes of Joe Public, or, if you've ever studied law, the man on the Clapham omnibus. And the words they'll pick may often be much simpler and more basic than you might think. 

The rest of it is just a carbon copy of what we were taught at college by a bearded lecturer whom we nick-named Captain Bird's Eye. Pick an intro or teaser that will grab the reader's attention immediately. Lead into an article that delivers on the promise. Finish with something that will stick in their mind, amusing, poignant, pithy, according to the article. 

Always check your speling 

Keep sentences short for easy reading. Don't rely on a spell checker to correct your mistakes and make sure the grammar's correct. Don't try to be clever, and certainly don't be patronising. 

Pick a headline that's concise and goes with the article. If you promise Ten Top Tips, give them ten, not nine. Read the rules of the site you're submitting to carefully, to see if they want, for example, two spaces after a full stop, unusual for those used to writing advertising copy. 

Don't feel compelled to write to the upper word count limit. If you've said all you have to say in 300 words, it's pointless and will irritate the reader if you're determined to stretch your word count into four figures. 

Remember that it's a lot more subtle than direct mail. You can't hammer your reader on the head with “buy now – stocks are limited” messages. You have to woo them softly and make them want to click on those tantalising links at the end of your honeyed words. 

So there you have it. The mysteries of Article Marketing unravelled. It's just good old fashioned, but never out of fashion, journalism. 

Now you too can become an Expert Author like I am – apparently!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A special place where plans start to take shape

Many sleepless nights later and at last we have the go ahead for our exciting new eco project. The planners have agreed on the development of Jim’s Yard; an eco gallery, new office space for my copywriting business, HQ for Lincolnshire Tree Services and brand new eco luxe accommodation for two.

The plan is to replace derelict outbuildings on the existing site to use the space sympathetically to its full potential and show off the natural beauty of the native hardwood timber we fell and recycle. As well as housing Jim's commercial tree surgery business, a wood workshop is planned as retail space for hand turned wood products using local felled timber. Visitors will be able to try out Lincolnshire specialities in the tea room next door using locally sourced ingredients, visit a creative gallery space, doubling as a multi-use hub for art and crafts courses and exhibitions. All this under the Wold’s brilliant stars away from the light pollution of the cities; to a cleaner way of life where you can still see the sky and bluebells adorn our forests and pathways.

It promises to be a total sensation, a niche in our region’s offerings as our businesses diversify and move with the responsibility of living in modern times. We’ve taken our deep rooted belief in all things eco to create this exciting new project in as sustainable way as possible. A biomass boiler and harvested rainwater will ensure we have only a positive impact on the environment. Over the last 7 years we've been working out ideas for this natural progression, as well as salvaging everything we possibly can from bricks to old doors and local stone. Jim has started charcoal making with coppiced timber. And overall is making good but slow progress. For me, 17 years into a successful career of copywriting for national and international clients, it's a great way to put something back into the county. I relish the opportunity to turn my marketing talents and experience to something sustainable, symbiotic and tangible and help a few other local businesses along the way. The plan is to showcase all manner of Lincolnshire talent, revive traditional skills and help sustain a rural economy in a positive and rewarding way. We aim to create a unique place to visit and a heavenly place to stay.

It's early days but watch this space...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Johnny's Take on Technical Copywriting



Some years ago Springer Publishing approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing some technical copywriting for their website. I was excited at the prospect of working for such a large publisher and as a trial-run they gave me some marketing material for a publication about toeplitz operators.

Now, if you look up toeplitz operators in Wikipedia (as I’ve just done) you’ll be reliably informed that, ‘In operator theory, a Toeplitz Operator is the compression of a multiplication operator on the circle to the Hardy space’.

I got on the phone to my man in Berlin.

‘Franz’, I said, ‘I don’t think I can do this. I’ve never heard of a toeplitz operator. I think it’s some kind of mathematical equation but maths has never been my strong point - it took me two attempts to pass my ‘O’ level.’

Franz sensed the panic in my voice and assured me that I didn’t have to understand toeplitz operators or know anything about them.

‘All the technical information is correct’, he said. ‘It’s been checked and double checked, and anyone who reads beyond the title will know what these things are.’

It was clear that Franz had also never heard of these mysterious equations. He advised me only to get the grammar right, make the material flow, and ensure this particular publication on toeplitz operators stood out from all the others. Surprised that there could be more than one book on the toeplitz operator shelf, I set about writing some trade copy, consumer copy, and I picked out a few obvious USPs.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Franz said it was ok, and four years on I’m still writing for Springer.

The format has since changed. I get sent the same kind of material, often written by the book’s author and frequently translated from another language, but now I must condense the essence of the book into 260 characters with spaces. Any longer than this and the copy won’t fit in Springer’s database, much less than 260 and it looks a bit thin.

Working for Springer has my spell-check in overdrive. Each title is bit like a puzzle and I spend a lot of time Googling words to check they exist. My mantra is ‘Keep it simple’, keep the English plain and let the science do the talking. Don’t be scared by technical detail and don’t give up because you don’t understand. My father worked for NASA and like he used to say, ‘A problem’s like a circle. You can go round it and you’ll get there but you gotta go through it to solve it.’

Writing about things immersed in technical detail can be daunting, but I can usually tell when I’ve cracked it. Perhaps it’s a bit sad, but when I succeed in making sense of something horribly complex and I hit the word count and it comes up 260 - I still get a buzz.


Top tips for technical copywriting

1. Keep it simple
2. Let the science do the talking
3. Make it fit
4. Go through the circle
5. Enjoy



Saturday, 6 February 2010

Loungewear, a lovely way to laze


My busy working weekdays roll from one to the next so the idea of luxurious loungewear really appeals to me. Even the words send me spinning into the dream of downtime in relaxed clothing, scented candles and homespun throws a million miles away from my workday attire. Lazeme designs use only the softest, sensuous fabrics in their clothing and home ware collection. Slip into a silk tunic or kaftan, pretty camisole or light weight cotton knit wrap at the end of a hectic day. For me it sounds heavenly and Lazeme has an irresistible collection including sleepwear, beachwear and plenty of other ideas for lazy living.

Everyone loves a bit of downtime so why not look fabulous while you’re doing it?



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