Heartbleed: Protect Yourself

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

heartbleedWhen a computer bug gets its own logo, pay attention.

Because of its scope and untraceability, the Heartbleed bug is one of the most significant security vulnerabilities since the Internet has existed.  As many as two-thirds of all active sites, including some of the largest like Facebook, use the software in question to keep information secure.  And there’s no way to detect where attackers might have exploited Heartbleed to steal data, eavesdrop on conversations, or impersonate services or users.

Affected sites

Everyone needs to change passwords on affected sites, but only after those sites have fixed the problem.  There are several ways to check the sites you use.  Mashable, for instance, is maintaining a list of the status of major sites and services.

You can check individual sites on password manager LastPass.  (If you’re already a LastPass user, you’ve got a built-in Heartbleed checker for your accounts – but for new members it may perceive all your passwords as new and therefore safe.)

Tools are also emerging like Google Chrome’s free Chromebleed extension that checks the URL of the page you have just loaded and displays a notification if it is affected by Heartbleed.

Passwords on “safe” sites

If the password you’ve used on a vulnerable site is the same one you’ve used on some unaffected sites, change those, too.  And in the future, don’t use the same password in multiple places.

The best passwords are a random mix of letters, numbers and symbols.  And they’re changed regularly.

A password manager can simplify life by helping you create and remember your new long list of indecipherable passwords.  A few that get good marks from Macworld or PC World are LastPass, 1Password and Dashlane.

Setting up a password manager may take some time initially, but afterward will save time, effort…and heartache.

The New Cool Factor in an Old Medium

March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment


Every new development in communications has brought dire predictions of the demise of print.  Certainly the emergence of digital devices and social media has opened a new array of marketing possibilities, but there will always be times when nothing will do other than a printed item that you can place in someone’s hands.  And printers are giving us innovative and exciting ways of making those pieces distinctive.

“The best way get your printed piece noticed is to make it different from your competitors,’” points out Mike Leathers, executive vice president at Commercial Printing of Birmingham, AL.  “As customers are printing smaller quantities of their marketing material, they are becoming more open to ideas that make their pieces nicer and set them apart.  There are more types of coating and finishes now than ever before. These things will add a cost to the piece, but since runs are smaller it doesn’t break the budget.”

Some of the options range from pearlescence and flat paper with three-dimensional effects to OLEDs (organic light emission diodes).  OLEDs are thin plastics used in digital displays such as televisions that are being developing to the point they can be used in printed pieces, though they are expensive.

Audiences these days expect and respond to individualized messaging.  Variable data printing has enabled printers to provide personalized direct mail.  The most common use is to change the address and salutation on each piece, but customization can also involve changing text and images according to target market, or even according to the individual.

Quest always recommends that our clients use a mixed media approach to reach a broad audience and to reinforce messaging through repetition in multiple modes.  Printers are embracing that, developing tie-ins to the emerging digital market.

QR codes on printed materials are one of the most widespread ways to enhance potential customers’ engagement, allowing them to access additional product information, videos or discounts on their mobile devices.  Print can also lead a target customer to a personalized URL generated specifically for that individual, where a company can present information relevant to the individual and measure how he or she interacts with it.

Wade Kellett, vice president/sales & marketing at Weatherall Printing in Tupelo, MS, notes that augmented reality, developed by Layar, is a fast-growing trend in the integration of print with technology.  A smartphone or tablet is used to scan a printed page, and the device superimposes graphics, audio or other sensory enhancements to augment what is on the page.  It has been used for product packaging, manuals, educational books and games.

3D is another developing area of print.  Companies like 3D Print Dimensions of Auburn, AL, take a digital model and “print” a three-dimensional solid object layer by layer.  Currently, 3D is most commonly used to produce parts, devices and prototypes for a variety of industries.  But as the technology continues to advance and costs drop, marketing applications are undoubtedly around the corner.

Printers are keeping ahead of the curve with new capabilities and an eye to future technologies.  This is good news for anyone with a product or service to promote – it means the print medium will continue to be fresh, modern and creative for many years to come.

Starting with a good marketing plan and graphic design from an ad agency and adding the new accoutrements found in the print industry can set companies apart from their competitors in fascinating new ways.

Advertising’s Biggest Game

January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment


It’s time for the annual pre-game scouting report ahead of advertising’s biggest game, which happens this Sunday, February 2.

The Stats:

In the Nielsen Company’s list of the 10 most watched single-telecast TV programs of 2013, the top 4 were the Super Bowl and its kickoff and post game programs.

That’s why this year advertisers are reportedly paying Fox Sports $4 million for a 30-second ad – that’s $133,333.33 per second.  With the expected audience of up to 110 million (not including social media viewers), that’s about 3½¢ per viewer.  Of course, there’s also the cost of production, celebrity fees that can range from $250,000 to $1 million, and the publicity campaign required to promote the ad.

Here’s what we can expect from advertisers’ investments, according to Ad Age® media news and other sources.

Seasoned pros:  Budweiser & Bud Light will have 5 ads between them including appearances by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Cheadle and Reggie Watts as well as the Clydesdale trainer from last year’s “Brotherhood” commercial along with a horse and a puppy.  Doritos is repeating its popular “Crash the Super Bowl” contest for the 8th year, running 2 ads created and submitted by consumers.  Coca-Cola has released few details, other than the product’s role in American society will be celebrated.

Rookies:  WeatherTech, a car mat manufacturer.  Squarespace, a “design-centric” website platform.  Near-rookie Heinz Ketchup will run for the first time in 16 years and the second time ever.

Drivers:  Car companies will again be major players – including Audi, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Toyota, Volkswagen, and CarMax.  Some highlights include 3 British actors known for their roles as villains for Jaguar, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus for Kia, and Terry Crews and the Muppets for Toyota.

Halftime:  Pepsi is sponsoring the halftime show again, and its ad will introduce that, working in scenes from New York City.  In the month leading up to the game, it’s been running an ad portraying Pepsi’s role in the “invention” of halftime.

All-American:  TurboTax will celebrate hard-working Americans.  WeatherTech will focus on the importance of manufacturing in the United States.  Budweiser will pay tribute to soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

Out of retirement:  Former “Full House” stars Bob Saget & Dave Coulier will join castmate John Stamos in an ad for Dannon’s Oikos in an ad that’s not as G-rated as their show.

Audibles:  GoDaddy and Danica Patrick have done a changeup and are going with a less, well, racy, theme this year.  In the first-ever Super Bowl “t-commerce” ad, H&M and David Beckham will promote his Bodywear line, and viewers with certain smart TVs can immediately stop and buy the underwear through their televisions, never switching away from the game.

Moral victory:  Axe causes soldiers and tyrants to set aside their warring ways.  Bank of America features U2 performing a new song that will be free on iTunes during the game and for 24 hours afterward, with BoA donating $1 for each download, up to $2 million, to fight HIV/AIDS and other disease.

Off the roster:  E-Trade.  Maybe the talking baby grew up after 7 years and it wasn’t such a big deal that the kid was talking.

Putting in the second string:  The little guy gets an opportunity when software producer Intuit gives the winner of a contest for small businesses a 30-second ad in the game.

Pooch Kick:  What you may want to do after viewing Audi’s crossbreed, the “Doberhuahua.”

Benched:  For the second year, SodaStream’s ad was rejected by the network, not for the controversy over its West Bank factory, but for calling out Coke & Pepsi; they’re re-editing it to omit featured actress Scarlett Johannson’s closing line that names the competitors.

Enjoy the ads this Sunday, then tell us which ones you’re a fan of.

…And remember, as Stephen Colbert tells America, two professional football teams will also play that day in honor of his first Wonderful Pistachios commercial.


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