Billboards don’t grope people, people do.

For those who are in advertising, and also in New York, you may have heard about the recent scandal involving the jewel in the crown of Times Square, Revlon’s Love Is On digital billboard.

Firstly I should say that I visit Times Square frequently, and have never once seen this majestic ClearChannel screen without a crowd of exhilarated visitors, peering gleefully up at themselves as they enjoy their moment of Big Apple fame. It joined the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge in the ranks of top New York tourist attractions – with folks including it in their must-see itinerary.

So it sucked big time when I heard that, in its twilight, it had been suspended. More shocking was the reason that New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton gave us all: that people were getting inappropriately touched while their attention was diverted.

Ok, now just a minute. Somebody has to say it: how can Love Is On get accused for inciting rape with a large digital screen that does little else but show a video feed of the people standing below? Inciting surprise and delight, maybe, but that it is the cause for opportunistic perverts to get their grope on is utterly ridiculous.

This argument is similar to the one our friends in the NRA have been bringing to the table for decades. Why ban guns when it is, actually, the trigger-happy psychos who are to blame for America’s high rate of violent gun crime?

The difference here of course is that unless the billboard actually proclaims the message: “Grope is On. Step right up. Get your gropes here” then Police Commissioner Bill needs to deal with the perverts in Times Square like he would any other crimes and not go around suspending legitimate and harmless advertising that was bringing more visitors and increasing the City’s ad revenue.

Those media owners and advertisers affected by this have been largely silent; perhaps because they don’t want to be branded insensitive to the very real issue of public sexual assault – however it is in my opinion that “Love Is On” has become a scapegoat for what is a growing problem in this area – brought on probably a lot more by the nude painted models who have set up shop there.

This post actually does have a point: don’t let this bump in the road discourage advertisers from owning not just the valuable real-estate in 2016, but more importantly to use it for the purposes of a “kiss cam” style video feed. People have been coming to Times Square for a year to see themselves up in lights, and the personal connection the brand makes with their adoring groupies below has no parallel in advertising, regardless of the channel.

Brands, get your Love On and make sure that billboard has a crowd-cam in 2016.

Anyway, here is the latest update if you care to follow this ongoing saga:

Mike GamaroffMike Gamaroff

Surviving the trough of disillusionment

Maybe this is you. You consider yourself someone with an eye for opportunity and you discover some new tech brewing that could be the next big thing. Either you form a startup, or you just get behind it as a new idea that will help your job.

With all new big tech ideas, there has emerged a similar pattern that I have seen enough times to be able to prepare for the roughly 4 year cycle over which it unfolds. It takes us through the exhilaration of discovery, the convulsive feeding-frenzy of everyone and their dogs wanting a piece – leading us swiftly over the precipice of despair when it all turns out to be shallow hype.

At this point, startups collapse, investors cringe, trade-press editors delete their tweets to the articles they once wrote declaring to have found the Holy Grail – and not too long after, brand advertisers spank their agencies.

But this story actually has a happy and encouraging ending. It’s not all doom and gloom. All we’ve done is work our way through what Gartner calls “The Hype Cycle”.

Gartner: The Hype Cycle

Gartner: The Hype Cycle

Take something you’re pushing now. Maybe it’s QR codes, or NFC, or Beacons. Or the Cronut! I find it really helps to know where you are on The Hype Cycle at any given time, because it could mean the difference between you throwing in the towel or persisting through the turbulent surf until you wash up onto the sand a little wiser about where it’s all leading.

Here are some indicators that you are in the Technology Trigger phase:

  1. You saw something launched at TechCrunch Disrupt that blew your mind and it went down a storm.
  2. A startup came out of nowhere with a press release stating they had secured a huge investment for something pretty cool that you can see yourself using.
  3. A brand like Coca Cola launch an experimental campaign utilizing some new tech in a sensational way and you kick yourself for not thinking of it first.

And if you’re in the Peak of Inflated Expectation, it looks more like this:

  1. You go to a tech expo and half the exhibits are by 3-week-old startups called Weazl, Gofr, Sqrl and Gerbl all selling the same thing, separated only by a choice of CSS stylesheets on their websites.
  2. Your clients (especially those who don’t normally like to innovate) are demanding a strategy for next year so that they’re not late to the party
  3. You see reams of thought-pieces and blogs attempting to talk with authority but which have completely butchered your idea of the optimum use-case.

If the world seems to be going nuts over some new tech, remember it has to crash first before it comes into its own

Alas, you’ve sunk into the Trough of Disillusionment when:

  1. Startups disappear like newly-hatched spider babies in the wind.
  2. Clients have come to terms with the budget spent by labeling it simply “good learnings” while forcibly stuffing the dog-eared coffeecup-ringed agency proposals into the nearest shredder.
  3.  Sales reps from annual expos and conferences dedicated to the tech, which only a year ago were bursting at the seams with Gold and Platinum sponsors (you being one of them), are emailing every day with fresh price reductions on renewed sponsorships.

And at last, surveying the scorched earth, you see the green glint of a single blade of new grass heralding the slow and steady growth of a revolution:

  1. After the fierce global race for the standard, only two or three companies remain, probably Google or Apple, as they silently nurse a routine patent-infringement lawsuit.
  2. A steady stream of well considered, tactical and results-driven case studies emerge from places you wouldn’t expect like Norway or Sweden or Malaysia that prove it was always a good idea if done right.
  3. Your 65-year-old mom can’t help but start using it – because it just felt natural to her – as you are shocked at the instant ubiquity that seemed to just creep up on you.

Unlike what your dad told you, quitting is actually a very good thing to do. Just use the above guidelines to make sure you’re doing it at the right time, and neither too soon nor too late.

Dear Elon Musk, one thing at a time, bru.

Dear Elon Musk,

Hear me out. One of the biggest challenges facing Tesla is that there’s been nothing better than the standard lithium battery invented since. It’s as if humanity, with all its greatness and creativity, has hit a brick wall and can’t get past. You have brought us the real possibility that the world could see a total transition from gasoline to electric vehicles, solving countless related problems in the process (like dependence on foreign oil).

You are correct. This is a battery that looks like a rocket.

However, even you have not yet been able to solve this conundrum; to find a way to make batteries smaller and longer lasting. To achieve this, of course, you need research and probably a lot of money.

My concern is that your space ambitions, however noble and impressive as they are, could result in neither prospect getting the dedication and focus they need to truly succeed. Let’s just say hypothetically that you abandoned the SpaceX program, and put all of that money into research of new battery technology to the point you created something to replace lithium technology; you would open the floodgates to billions in extra revenues. Not only would you be able to put smaller and more affordable electric cars into the hands of everybody, swallowing swathes of market share, your battery technology could be licensed to smartphone manufacturers who would pay a high price.

Surely with that money you would have no problem funding the most ambitious of space programs. I am just saying that I worry you are spreading yourself too thin and that you owe it to yourself and the world to figure out the battery thing, make Tesla affordable and in so doing make gasoline obsolete.

A revolutionized battery should be your primary focus, as it will enable you to do so much more. Don’t get it right and you could face the risk of SpaceX never really profiting sustainably, and Tesla remaining the expensive and unattainable luxury it is today – and missing your chance to change the world in a far greater way than you have already.

Get on it.