All Posts By

Max Specht

Finding Love in an Ad-Free Place: Ad-Blockers & Your Brand

By | Blogging, culture, Marketing, News, SEO, Social Media, Web Development

Ever since the internet was young and innocent, advertisements have cropped up as a way for brands and marketers to get access to the huge amount of people logging on every day. The pop-up has served as the bane of many an internet user’s existence, popping up in more and more frustrating situations and in greater quantities. Nonetheless, users have revolted and used ad-blocking softwares to dispel the efficacy of “traditional” internet marketing — namely, the pop-up window.

The era of the pop-up advertisement is all but dead,

and it has everything to do with ad-blockers.

What is ad-blocking?

photocred: bookstores.nyu.edu

photocred: bookstores.nyu.edu

Simply put, ad-blocking is the process of eliminating any and all advertisements on a webpage — especially those that show up as third-party plug-ins (think “pop ups” or banner ads). This results in pages loading faster, because ad-blockers essentially refuse to load advertisements on a given webpage.

Why are people attracted to it?

It appeals to common sense that users would want the fastest, most distraction-free browsing experience. Using ad-blockers reduces the “white noise” of traditional advertisements encroaching upon the content users want to access. If users are this adamant about not wanting to see advertisements, it speaks to a collective lag on the part of brands to provide compelling and engaging content to get people to listen and engage with their online ads.

When done well, advertisements don’t have to be “white noise.”

What can brands do to counteract the rise of ad-blockers?

The rise of ad-blockers for traditional users, with Apple recently releasing ad-blocking as part of their overall software package, has petitioned companies to market in more profound ways; Companies are now tasked with creating compelling, engaging, and user-centric content. Users are playing a greater role in advertising, rejecting ads that don’t reach them in a way that asks them to participate and be involved in a brand’s “process.” Therefore, companies need to re-focus their marketing strategies on co-creation, user involvement, and overall engagement.

Besides creating more compelling content, what else can be done?

Creating great content is one thing, but there also needs to be a well thought out and executed distribution

photo cred: tech.co

photo cred: tech.co

strategy for your brand’s content. If you simply create it, it is not a guarantee that consumers will flock to your brand. Developing a robust digital strategy is imperative for any company’s success in an ad-blocking online culture. This means utilizing mediums, strategies (SEO), and resources to reach people where they reside online.

Ad-blockers are making traditional forms of advertisement more difficult, but it hasn’t rendered the entire practice of advertising online as dead. Companies are now being asked to be more creative, to create content which exceeds expectations, and taking residence in places that users wouldn’t normally find them — but are using anyways. There are places to advertise, if your company is doing the right job in seeking them out.

Avoiding Screen Fatigue with F.lux

By | Blogging, Learning, Life, Other, Resources, Social Media, Time Management

It’s a tale as old as time, one where you’ve been plugging away at your computer for hours without looking away. All of a sudden you turn to look out the window, and it’s as though your whole life is flashing before your eyes. You’ve successfully entered the mid-afternoon computer screen fatigue panic! Your eyes may feel like the surface of the sun, but you must persevere.

Luckily, screen fatigue doesn’t have to be the rest of your life; F.lux is here to change this daily struggle.

F.lux is a completely (yes, completely) free application which you can access online that will alter thephoto cred: www.justgetflux.com“temperature” of your screen depending on the time of day. Particularly when you work in an office environment with lots of natural light, F.lux alters your computer screen’s warmth to accommodate outside changes as the day progresses. This is especially important after the sun goes down, where your screen will adopt a yellow-orange hue that might throw you off at first. Don’t worry though, as this is supposed to help facilitate pre-sleep. This is especially helpful if you’re a fan of watching Netflix, working, or canvassing eBay for collectible action figures right before bed.

Screen fatigue (and eye strain) from staring at your screen is only going to become more and more of a

photo cred: www.improveeyesighthq.com

photo cred: www.improveeyesighthq.com

problem as the work we do becomes more and more computer-centric. While we have discussed taking breaks away from your screen in previous blogs, it doesn’t change the fact that the majority of your day will be spent in front of your screen’s warm glow. Simple changes, like the one F.lux is providing, are monumental in their day-to-day effect on user’s lives. While it is important to ensure that you aren’t (literally and proverbially) glued to your screen, F.lux is a useful way to successfully complete your work and avoid the piercing pain of the 2 o’ clock screen assault.

F.lux is another example of applications making minor adjustments to our everyday lives, with life-changing results. 

Why Are Snapchat Geofilters so Addictive?

By | Blogging, Learning, Life, Marketing, Social Media, Strategy

Chances are if you’ve been on Snapchat in the past year, that you might have noticed the opportunity to scroll (left or right) on your ‘snap’ and add filters — images which lay atop of the image you’ve just taken, often designating where you are, events in your area, or general advertisements.

What are geofilters?

Snapchat geofilters were originally released in July 2014, and since then they have gained a significant amount of popularity. Snapchat actually crowdsources the submissions for prospective geofilters, allowing users the opportunity to ‘rep’ their neck of the woods. This approach emphasizes the ability to design, contribute, and witness your work in action (should it receive approval). 

Why use geofilters?

First and foremost, geofilters are a great marketing strategy for companies. Millennials are flocking to

photo cred: therelacape.com

photo cred: therelacape.com

Snapchat in droves, and they represent an attractive demographic for marketers and companies alike. Simply put, it pays to be where the young people are most active. In addition to this, there are multiple locations which provide geofilters — with more being added every day. Miami, Oakville, and even Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood have their own unique geofilters. Geofilters are popular because they are unique to specific locations, that they are “exclusive” to certain areas makes them attractive to users. 

Why are geofilters so popular?

snapchat-mcdonalds-geo-filters-top

From a big-picture perspective, geofilters allows users to identify with their current location. Users have the opportunity to share with their family and friends where they are, what they are doing, and what is going on in the world. Consider it one large social experiment in the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), where people share what they are doing so that everyone they know can acknowledge it and share back what they are doing. Companies are even able to create time-sensitive geofilters to market events, holidays, or social events. 

The next time you’re on Snapchat, no matter where you are in the world, swipe right or left to find out if your location has a geofilter. Soon enough you might be embarking on your own personal scavenger hunt to discover as many unique filters as possible. Happy hunting! 

Writing, Uninterrupted: the Rise of Distraction-Free Writing

By | Blogging, culture, Job Advice, Learning, Organization, Resources, Time Management

Here’s an idea; hop onto your preferred search engine right now, and run a search for “distraction free writing applications.” Almost immediately, you will be greeted by a vast selection of applications which can help “mute” your desktop. The idea of cancelling out all of the potential distractions on your screen is a growing trend in the world of online writing — based on the idea that writing in its purest form is based on a complete lack of distractions.

photo cred: lifehacker.com

photo cred: lifehacker.com

What has taken so long for these applications to really take hold, though? The answer could be that distraction-free writing tools give you the opportunity to cancel out the influx of other applications available on your computer. It’s not just writing applications available to the average internet user, but countless other apps to help your organize your life, schedule your time, and do anything and everything in between. Given the sheer number of options, applications that “tune out” these potential distractions are in-demand — instead of adding to the mess of business, distraction-free writing tools are replacing the variety of options with only one option: to write, and then to write some more.

While there is no lack of options to do some distraction-free writing, there are certainly some that stand out from the crowd. Consider some of these apps before you undertake your next manuscript, screenplay, or blog:

Draft 

photo cred: ghost.org

photo cred: ghost.org

Draft offers an aesthetically pleasing interface where you can cut out distractions. The added twist is the Hemingway mode, which doesn’t allow for editing on the fly. It forces you to type without using the backspace button, only allowing for editing after the mode has been disabled. Hemingway mode is meant to facilitate the flow of writing, without the at-times debilitating process of going back and tweaking everything you’ve already said.

Hemingway Editor 

hemingway editor

photo cred: brit.co

Hemingway Editor began as an easy way to evaluate whether or not your writing was “plain language” enough — allowing for an instantaneous knowledge translation exercise. The application itself also offers a useful interface for writing, which combined with the evaluative aspect of seeing how relatable your writing is, provides for a unique and productive experience for writers of all kinds. We all want to be understood, after all.

Calmly Writer 

Calmly Writer is another attractive application that allows for distraction-free writing. The twist for this app is the fact that it provides a laser-focused approach to the writing process, highlighting the specific paragraph you are currently writing. It focuses on exactly what you are writing in that moment, and allows for better concentration.

This is just a taste of what’s going on in the world of distraction-free writing, so don’t be afraid of experimenting and trying out new applications as they are released. Every writer’s process is different, so it is important to use exactly the right medium to express yourself.

New Year, New You: 6 New Year Applications For 2016

By | culture, Learning, Life, Organization, Time Management

The beginning of the year is often a mixed bag of emotions: first there is the inevitable holiday comedown, followed by the injection of promise and hope that comes from sketching out resolutions for the New Year. Often people lay out their goals with an eye towards remaining organized, bettering themselves, or maintaining that aliphone holdingl-important balance between work, family, and self-improvement.

What typically gets in the way? Our ability to follow through!


Thankfully, we have the technology to organize and maintain our goals! The following is a list of six new year applications which can help you maintain these goals, whether they are saving up for a trip to a faraway land, or simply remembering the day of the week:

Mint (https://www.mint.com/)

Many resolutions revolve around money;  There are many apps out there to help you keep in control of your finances, whether it is saving, budgeting, or simply tracking how much you’re spending. Mint provides the opportunity to intuitively keep track of your finances, coupled with tips and tricks about keeping your finances in order.

wunderlistWunderlist (https://www.wunderlist.com/)


The New Year application for to-do list for pros, Wunderlist offers the opportunity to sketch out all of your to-do’s in an intuitive and attractive space. Whether they are putting together a grocery list, compiling a list of action items for work, or simply remembering to walk the dog, it is easier to regiment and maintain everything you have to do for the day/week/month.

Wonderful Day (http://www.wonderfuldayapp.com/)

If repetition is the key to success, the app Wonderful Day will help make sure that you are tracking your consistency no matter how small the task. Wonderful Day is based simply on the idea of practice, where you make a list of activities and mark its accomplishment (ideally) every day. The streak alone will keep you motivated!


Headspace (
https://www.headspace.com/)

Maybe you’re looking to jump into 2016 with a more holistic approach to your health. Headspace is a meditation app designed to help make meditation simple. In only ten minutes a day, your “gym membership for the mind” can start off strong.

Sunrise (https://calendar.sunrise.am/)

photo cred: imore.com

photo cred: imore.com

In keeping with the theme of organization, Sunrise is a calendar app designed to streamline your day-to-day actives in a way that is effective and aesthetically pleasing. It can be combined with your other calendars, via Facebook or Google, to keep all of your appointments in one handy location. It’s a new years application made to keep you as organized as possible! 

Pillow (https://neybox.com/pillow/)

photo cred: geekwire.com

photo cred: geekwire.com

Trying to get better sleep, or to track your sleep patterns? Pillow is an effective app to keep track of your sleep, with detailed reports and an alarm component built to wake you up at the exact right time for your body.

With the help of these productive apps, your 2016 resolutions might become more than ideas floating around if your brain. These apps will help keep your organized, motivated, and hungry for more this year.

Influencer Marketing and Your Brand On Vine

By | Learning, Marketing, News, Social Media, Uncategorized

The concept of influencer marketing isn’t necessarily new; brands have been using celebrity endorsements for years to convince people to buy their products (think Stephen Curry on a box of Wheaties, or Matthew McConaughey driving a Lincoln). The recent twist in this landscape is the rise of various social media channels, and the influence they have on a company’s brand strategy. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and recently Vine are being used to target consumers and promote products and services through more nuanced influencers.

photo cred: mashable.com

photo cred: mashable.com

A site like Vine is the perfect example for a more complex influencer landscape. The nature of the medium (looped six-second video clips) and its rising popularity — specifically with millennials, is attractive for brands and consumers alike. Taking advantage of Vine is understanding the unique relationship between influencers and consumers, based on the following:

Seamless Integration

photo cred: scribblelive.com

photo cred: scribblelive.com

Consumers are often frustrated when being “forced” to sit through advertisements to get to the content they desire (it’s often painful that a 30 second YouTube commercial can feel like an eternity). Vine’s strategy is developing content involving the product itself, and recruiting influencers to develop and brand that content as their own. The influencer and the product are often one and the same.

The “Average Joe” Advantage

Vine is often seen as an equal opportunity app, where anyone can become popular and influential online. Seeing everyday people using products, and promoting their advantages, is extremely attractive to the average user. Not only do they relate to the “regular” people on the screen, but they trust them more than a “paid” advertisement.

Co-Creation

Creativity is at a premium on Vine, where there is only a short amount of time to communicate an idea. When companies are able to partner with influential users, they are also gaining advantage of those users’ unique perspective and ideas. It’s a win-win for interesting concepts, and for product placement.

Based on these ideas, Vine is being used more and more as a tool for company’s in their marketing strategies. Vine is implementing a strategy based on trust and relation — seeing yourself with and relating to the people you see on your screen. This form of trust is priceless for many companies.