Category Archives: apps

Barcelona and AKQA have something in common: a Star Player

This weekend FC Barcelona demonstrated  how football should be played by convincingly beating Manchester United in the Champions League final. Simultaneously, AKQA and Heineken demonstrated with Star Player how a branded iPhone app should be played by convincingly fusing gaming with social one-upmanship and entertainment.

I had seen this hype video when it came out a few weeks ago but only played it for the first time last night.

Star Player mobile app

Heineken's Star Player mobile app

Both sides have a star player, Barcelona in Lionel Messi and AKQA/Heineken in this free iPhone app that will surely earn the agency some badges in the award finals (AKQA’s award page is here).

Here is the summary of my experience:

  • Star Player is a well crafted application with a clear interface, reacting timely and succinctly.
  • It contains good copy writing, egging you on while not being overladen with football mannerisms or brand-speak.
  • The global stats (“this is how the world predicted”) give a nice context to how clairvoyant you really were.
  • I could do without the quiz questions coming on intermittently, crucially the Barcelona’s first goal was scored while a quiz question was on the screen.
  • One has to be (excuse the pun) ‘on the ball’ throughout, literally with your finger on the phone’s screen in order to predict goals.
  • Playing ‘Star Player’ represents a great complimentary user experience to watching the game, especially when you are at home. Would groups of mates at the pub get a kick out of glancing at their phones during the game?
  • Had I connected with fellow football lovers online (including live chat, like on the facebook version), it would have become an even greater social experience.

To me this app is a milestone in the development of the often-cited ‘dual screening’ or ‘parallel viewing’. According to the agency it hits extremely fertile ground as:

  • 72% of UEFA Champions League fans around the globe watch the matches alone
  • 75% of US television viewers are dual screening at home
  • 50% of NFL viewers are watching the games in dual screen environments

In a local development, BBDO Melbourne launched Twelevision, an iPhone/iPad app to support TV viewers in their tweeting about the different shows. And their CEO Peter Biggs has ambitiously declared to create more useful apps and products (and consequently generate IP) as 10% part of their future offering. I wonder if AKQA managed to get some patent on the inherent game mechanics of Star Player? No reason why this app wouldn’t soon appear in other sporting codes, like Rugby Union where Heineken e.g. sponsor the World Cup.

I haven’t tested the corresponding facebook app (currently 125,000 users) yet and would be grateful if anyone can share an experience with it. The same goes for any information on other live sporting events (e.g. the NBA Play Offs) that might have rolled out similar apps.

In the category of voting & commenting reality TV show ‘Four Weddings’ had brides going to each others’ weddings and rate them – usually in a bitchy way – in different categories. Viewers where given the opportunity to rate the show online in real time. The results were screened in the end in comparison to the brides’ ratings.

Dream/Fantasy team competitions have been around for a while, e.g. our client Toyota sponsors AFL Dream Teamwhere your squad of 22 players take on an opponent. You’re competing against 15 other teams in your Dream league. So gather your mates and prepare to duke it out all season to see who has the sharpest football brain. Another example is the F1 Live Timings complementing the main TV broadcast – even keeping you ahead of the commentary, and overcoming the irritation of ad breaks during the race.




The Haeckel Clock

Check one of the latest art projects to come out of Holler Sydney: The Haeckel Clock (free install). Its unique art direction was inspired by the artistic work of an eminent German biologist, naturalist, philosopher called Ernst Haeckel. Around the turn of the last century he discovered, described and named thousands of new species and drew microscopic creatures with fascinating skill and detail.

Haeckel illustration

Haeckel illustration

Holler’s Mike Hill, himself a zoologist and nature photographer before he entered the interactive agencyscape, is a big fan of Haeckel’s work.

The application is a pretty abstract clock that uses different sized balls to signify hours, minutes and seconds.

Haeckel Clock

Hours floating together

Fittingly for such a scientifically-inspired piece the elements all adhere to the laws of gravity and have their own elastic coherence.

Haeckel Clock

Hours, minutes and seconds separated

The modern genius behind this app is my frequent collaborator Lukasz Karluk, who developed the application in openFrameworks. He describes the project, its interface and technical detail here on his blog. Have a peek at the flow in his screen video and don’t forget to install this free clock on your iPad by going to the app store.

Disclaimer: I was only very partially involved in the clock’s design and development, mainly correcting any typos in German pieces of copy.

Plan FAIL Cast

In case you want to know what your life could have been like, had your plans not failed. Here’s Plan Cast, helping you visualise the ambition vs. reality gap. And keeps a relentless record.

Plan Cast logo and mascot

Plan Cast logo and mascot

The service allows you to build up a calendar of things you then don’t get around to. And, you guessed it, your friends can subscribe to these ‘news’.


Plan FAIL Cast

Pharrell Williams and Holler (on the Granimator)

OK, we aren’t really tight with the mastermind of N*E*R*D fame. But we did manage to be included in the same wonderful iPad app.
Holler Sydney has contributed to one of the most successful new iPad applications, Granimator. Holler’s contribution is the only one from Australia and was designed by our own Kerry Edward and accompanied by sounds from Sydney musician Eli Murray.

The application which is currently in the Top 10 of free apps in the UK was developed by English studio UsTwo. It lets users design wallpapers, using only their fingers.

Holler pack on Granimator

Holler pack on Granimator

The graphics are sourced from globally recognised illustrators and creative studios such as Airside, Buro Destruct, Rob Bailey, mcbess and Jon Burgerman. And now it also includes cross over groups like N*E*R*D (+ Friends with You).

N*E*R*D on Granimator

N*E*R*D on Granimator

Also worthy of a click:

And just to round it up in style, here’s Pharrell/N*E*R*D with Everyone Nose:

Get a pat on the back from HypeMachine’s ScoreBot

For a while my music finder of choice has obviously been HypeMachine – if you don’t use it already I would seriously recommend it to you. At least till Spotify is officially available in Australia.

As I tweeted a new discovery (go check out Wooden Birds) I was surprised by HypeMachine’s scorebot. A nifty script that automatically comes back with a display of my “musical influence”. I apparently made 39 other people discover and like the same band/act.

Hype Machine's Scorebot

Hype Machine's Scorebot

Gave me a little pat on the back, like someone asking you if they could copy your mixtape (I know, waaaay back in the days). Or that nod of approval by the long-time employee of your favourite record shop. Nice.

FontFont your BlogBlog – try custom fonts before you buy

I have never learned to tweak CSS (and I am sure it is a lot of fun!). And having to rely on a generic “off the shelf” blog design always lies heavy on my conscience. Luckily, the guys from FontShop have come up with a genius web tool called FontFonter to make me see the light and finally do something about it. This is a great product experience as well as a brilliant sales tool. Go on and quickly discover a better look for any site at . And make sure to try the Meta typeface.

FontFonter version of this blog

FontFonter version of this blog

(Disclosure: I used to be an employee of MetaDesign in Berlin, so I basically ate Meta morning, noon and night. And our presentations and wireframes were built in InDesign and not Powerpoint or Omnigraffle. But that’s another story.)

MyNRL racks up 220,000 facebook fans – media spend? A big 0

(This text was originally written for Digital Choice in AdNews)

I’ll tell you a secret: I was getting a bit bored by the Digital Choice columns. Bored by descriptions of uploads, downloads, widgets, gadgets, tweets and posts followed by a screenshot. The latter usually small in size and framed by a browser, making the work appear complicated and even a minimalistic layout look cluttered. I don’t mean to attack any individual of the previous authors, more the format. Hasn’t digital matured enough to now debate the idea rather than the execution?

Digital Choice on AdNews

A Digital Choice column on AdNews

So this column features a campaign that is explained in five words: MyNRL makes rugby fans proud.

100,000 Australians became part of it in the space of 48 hours, 200,000 after 2 weeks with a total reach going into the millions – all boosted by a lavish media spend of zero. At the core of MyNRL lies a small facebook application that lets you do only one thing: create a personal jersey in order to back your state at the Origin games. Unite with your friends and tease your enemies. Simple as that, no fancy footwork, the thing is not even in 3D.

My NRL app on facebook

My NRL app on facebook

As the makers put it: “Timing was everything”. They seeded to the 16 NRL teams two days before kick off, with a single post on each of their Facebook walls. Its live game commentary made facebook punters part of the event, jump up from their sofas, sledge the opponents and show their pride.

This is all far from cutting edge stuff but it still racked up a huge score. Several details made it so compelling and (dare I say it) “viral” that the idea spread like wildfire. And it continues to do so even though the Maroons have resoundingly won offline as well as online. You might have noticed agencies hiring content and community managers – this is one field those guys would love to play on.

Before you think I am only talking about saving media dollars – I want to celebrate a beginning rather than a final result, the promise of something good to come. MyNRL has only begun because it has created a huge community in a couple of weeks.

And sponsors must be tripping over themselves to join the scrum.

Additional comment: I see plenty of opportunities to work with this community on facebook – congrats to Aden Hepburn from IdeaWorks for a project that took off like Lockyer’s 50-yard field goal in yesterday’s Maroons’ whitewash of the Blues.