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10 Creative Methods of Advertising

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Due to the ubiquity of advertisements, consumers have become accustomed to them and are able to tune them out. To combat this "problem," advertisers are coming up with continually more creative ways to get their messages across. The new and unique methods some firms have devised are surely memorable. Of course, if they become as commonplace as scented perfume ads or product placement in TV shows and movies, they too will cease to be memorable.

The 10 most memorable new methods of advertising are...

1. Escalator: Rediffusion DY&R in Mumbai, India, chose to advertise Juice Salon on an escalator. On the bottom of the escalator is an image of a man's head; on each step, a hairstyle. As the steps slide into the bottom of the escalator, the man's hairstyle changes.

2. Moldy Cheese: The main competitor of Adobe InDesign (publishing software) is Quark, which has long dominated the publishing industry. "Quark," in German, is also the name for "curd cheese," a theme that Adobe played off of with a recent promotion for InDesign. Rapp Collins in Germany sent tubs of past-the-expiration-date Quark. Inside was a layer of "mould," and then a recipe book-inspired flyer advertising InDesign and offering a free download of the program.

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3. Fruit: Klas and Maria Lindstrand's new book, Tutti Frutti, is a fruits and berries resource with facts, recipes, and photographs for each fruit and berry. The advertisements? Fruit stickers. The stickers are the size of the brand stickers usually found on supermarket fruits, but bear the book's name and instructions to purchase the book online at adlibris. The advertising strategy was conceived by Klas, who also thought to mail the book to critics in the mesh packaging in which fruits, apples, and other fruits are often bought.

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4. Dogs in the Park: Pedigree chose to time its adoption drive and the opening of its NYC Dogstore with the Westminster Dog Show. For the 21-year sponsor of the Westminster Dog Show, TBWA\Chiat\Day placed advertising dogs in Central Park. The orange, wooden dogs bore the message, "Wish I was here. But I'm not. Come visit me and other great shelter dogs at the PEDIGREE DOGSTORE on 46th and Broadway."

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5. Bubble: For the Latin American candy company Arcor, Leo Burnett created a bubble ad. When a magazine reader opens the spread containing the Arcor ad, a 3-D "gum bubble" pops up, creating the illusion that the person in the ad has blown a bubble with Arcor gum.

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6. Welcome Mat: BBDO New York produced limited edition welcome mats to promote Havaianas flip-flops. The mats contained flip-flops so, when leaving for the day, one can simply step onto the welcome mat to put on shoes. Upon return, the flip-flops pop right back into the mat.

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7. Flowerbeds: Another three-dimensional ad created for Havaianas by BBDO New York were giant flip-flop flowerbeds. Located where Havaianas are sold, such as in malls, the flowerbeds were designed to "remind people of Havaianas' unique aesthetic of color, design, and the brand's connection to nature and the outdoors."

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8. Codes: Several companies have employed this method in somewhat different ways. Google created a now-famous billboard that simply read, "{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com". The billboard was displayed in Silicon Valley, while banners in Harvard Square carried the same message. Those smart enough to solve the puzzle discovered a Web site with another puzzle. Eventually, those who solved all the puzzles were asked to submit a resume.

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When an expert typographer was needed at Lunar BBDO in London, the creative directors devised a similar plan. They created three coded advertisements. In one, the text was completely in Webdings, Wingdings, and Zapf Dingbats. The ads were placed at local design schools and ran in typographic publications. The campaign drew thirty responses.

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9. Paint-by-Gum: Hubba Bubba chose to promote its product while fighting the gum-on-the-street problem. DDB designed paint-by-number posters for the company; the posters' color palettes are comprised of different flavors of gum. Gum chewers are encouraged to fill the famous images (the Mona Lisa and Marilyn Monroe) with their used gum.

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10. Flavor Strips: Most magazine readers are well-acquainted with scented ads, usually for perfumes. Welch's is making use of the new flavored-advertising technique developed by First Flavor. This month, issues of People magazine will contain Welch's ads with flavored strips that resemble mint breath strips. Readers are instructed: "For a TASTY fact, remove & LICK." The ads have sparked hygiene concerns, since magazines are often passed among readers. However, First Flavor assures that, due to the ad's design, whether the strip has already been licked is immediately apparent.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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