Useful Blog

The village has just completed a brand television commercial for our awesome client, Inspirations Paint.

The commercial continues the single-minded focus that Inspirations Paint has for their customers paint projects. The ad features Loungy, a suffering lounge room paint project. Fortunately, the family takes Loungy to an Inspirations Paint store just in time to bring him back to good health.

Now that Loungy has recovered, the family sit back and enjoy their schmick paint project only to find that now Kitchy needs their attention.

The ad was shot by director, Scott Otto Anderson and features a music composition by Guy Gross.


We prototype and test websites (and apps and everything else) to help move our clients’ commercial needle. Prototyping and testing unearths valuable insights, helps shape the most useful outcome possible and dramatically increases the likelihood of commercial success.

We’ve seen revenue increases of over 50% after a website redesign (from a large base), website ROI payback periods of less than 6 months, and big swings in customer conversion and retention. In every case, the tested prototype is pivotal in achieving the outcome with a finely tuned user experience (UX).

A prototype is a simulation of a real website or app. It’s usually black, grey and white, and it lives in a web browser and is clickable (or tappable) and interactive. During testing, customers can use a prototype to complete the most important customer journeys, and in doing so, revenue roadblocks or usability issues can be identified with the right interviewing and moderation. Testing can take place remotely or in-person; in-person is always more revealing. We typically test quite detailed prototypes in-person with a carefully recruited set of participants, then we iterate the prototype, then we test again with another specific group. We’re happy to share more about how we go about recruitment and who we involve in testing, and why. We’ve written before about how we go about digital customer experience design and how prototyping fits in.

This isn’t crowdsourcing and it’s not about customers coming up with design ideas. It’s about designing a user experience and using real customers to validate it, removing roadblocks and usability issues along the way.

Brands find every dollar spent on UX drives between $2 and $100 in return (source: Fast Company). It’s not for everyone and it certainly adds time and expense, though it’s consistently an excellent investment. Econsultancy’s ‘User Experience Survey Report‘ found 95% of brands surveyed considered user experience a good investment. For example, Bank of America increased online banking yield 45% with UX.

If you’re up for investing in UX and moving the needle, we’d love to chat. If you’d like to understand more about UX this workshop at Harvard Innovation Lab is a good start.

Awesome Newcastle


A few months ago we decided to create Awesome Newcastle, a local chapter of the global Awesome Foundation. We’re about being useful and moving the needle and it just felt right. Last night Awesome Newcastle awarded its first no-strings-attached $1,000 grant.

Here’s what we’ve been up to. We called for board member applications and assembled an accomplished board who couldn’t wait to give up their own time and money every month. We have nine regular board members and keep a guest position open every month. Then we registered Awesome Newcastle as a chapter of the global Awesome Foundation. The Awesome Foundation was created in 2009 and has provided over $1.5m in grants via over 100 global chapters.

We launched the Awesome Newcastle website and began accepting applications from artists, creators, ideas people and leaders of Newcastle. We started blogging the amazing stories coming from Awesome Foundation chapters worldwide and connecting with global funded projects and board members on Twitter, Facebook and private Google Groups. Then we narrowed the Awesome Newcastle applications down to three finalists for the first funding round. Three finalists presented to the board last night. We discussed the ideas and voted to determine the winner, then handed over $1,000 cash. Each of the 10 board members (including Villagers) pay the cash from their own pockets, and I can’t think of a better way to spend $100.

There are no strings attached and Awesome Newcastle takes nothing in return (just good vibes). This is about paying it forward and helping make awesome happen.

Everyone in the Village works on Awesome Newcastle and helps it grow. We now have a forward-thinking board, we’re receiving applications from people making an impact, we have the satisfaction of paying it forward every month, and as an agency we get to nurture and grow the foundation along the way.

Thank you to the board members, applicants and supporters. Awesome Newcastle’s had an awesome start. We can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Subaru’s been building cars in zero landfill plants for a decade. In 2004, Subaru became the first automotive assembly plant in North America designated as zero landfill. A zero landfill plant means 100% of manufacturing waste is either recycled or turned into electricity. This means that since May 2004, Subaru’s manufacturing plants have not sent any waste to landfills.

In a monumental mission of environmental stewardship, Subaru recently announced it is sharing its knowledge of zero landfill practices with the National Park Service to reduce landfill waste from national parks across the United States. Subaru’s team will test zero landfill practices in three iconic national parks – Yosemite, Grand Teton and Denali – working toward an end goal of zero landfill from all national parks.

In 2013, the National Park Service managed more than 100 million pounds of waste nationally. Much of this waste was generated in the parks by its 273.6 million visitors. That amount of waste would normally require 20 million household garbage bags, which if laid end-to-end would stretch from New York City to Los Angeles and back again. Twice.

Who We Are Is What We Leave Behind‘ is a new series by Subaru documenting the enormous and incredibly worthy initiative. Subaru’s environmental microsite is also recording the journey and chronicles the automaker’s environmental achievements since 2003.

Volkswagen Netherlands aired a TV ad in April this year, in which VW owners had big expectations for their other possessions. The ad featured a mother who couldn’t understand why baby strollers don’t have automatic braking.

After VW posted the ad on Facebook, the most liked comment suggested that VW build such a stroller. A stroller that could miraculously brake automatically, just like in the ad.

And so VW did. In this film, what began as a joke in a TV ad becomes a real-world prototype in a matter of months. While they were at it, the automaker’s engineers took the opportunity to improve on the idea. They made the stroller smarter, such that it not only brakes automatically but also keeps a distance automatically. This was made possible by including the adaptive cruise control sensor from the current model VW Golf.

As expected, the film’s had a warm reception on VW Netherland’s Facebook page and we’d expect the brand’s saliency, consideration and awareness has also seen a positive bump.

The mission of Pedigree Found is to help find missing dogs by moving faster than a dog can. Dog owners register their pet on the Found app, and if their best friend goes missing, they can immediately send out a missing dog ad to everyone online in the area – free. The app utilises Google’s ad network to target people online in the area with missing dog ads and also alerts other local Found app users. Found helps the user get plenty of people looking out for their dog in real-time, and anyone who spots the missing dog can alert the owner immediately as to their whereabouts. There’s also a search function, so if a Found user spots a dog that looks lost they can check if it’s been listed as missing.

Volvo LifePaint aims to make cyclists easier to see at night. An invisible reflective spray that glows under the glare of a car’s headlights, the “paint” is transparent and makes no noticeable difference to the feel of material it’s sprayed on. Lasting for around one week once applied, LifePaint can be sprayed on bicycles, clothing, helmets, bags and shoes. LifePaint turns to a hot white glow in front of headlights, making cyclists (and pedestrians and potentially pets) easier to see at night.

This fantastic innovation in safety is part of Volvo’s 2020 Vision, the goal of which is to have no serious injuries or fatalities involving new Volvo vehicles by the year 2020.

Serious problems, particularly medical related problems need to be solved with serious advertising right? Well, not so much. The new television ad for Tena Men proves that the use of humour even for the treatment of the particularly unfunny condition of incontinence can be appropriate and powerful.

This ad by AMV London uses a series of superbly crafted and executed scenarios to explain to men suffering with incontinence that Tena is the way to maintain their control.


IBM’s Cognitive Cooking Food Truck is a recent demonstration of IBM’s “big data” cognitive computing technology. Known simply as Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing technology understands information more like a human than a computer. Watson is best known for an impressive 2011 triumph over his human competitors on quiz show ‘Jeopardy’.

IBM’s research team recently applied this humanised way of comprehending data to cooking. The mission was to create never-before-imagined dishes by pairing unlikely ingredients and methods. IBM’s approach was to draw upon a number of datasets – regional and cultural knowledge as well as statistical, molecular and food-pairing theories. IBM was looking to create “dishes high in surprise and pleasantness” by crunching big data.

The cognitive cooking process began by capturing and analysing tens of thousands of existing recipes to understand ingredient pairings and dish composition, which the system used to create innovative new recipes. Watson cross-referenced these new recipes with data on the flavour compounds found in ingredients, and the psychology of people’s likes and dislikes, to determine how the regular human tongue would respond to different flavour combinations. Amazingly complex and amazingly clever.

Dishes created by Cognitive Cooking and made available from the Cognitive Cooking Food Truck included Indian Turmeric Paella, Baltic Apple Pie & Ecuadorian Strawberry Dessert.

We love that quintillions of possibilities and a battalion of computational algorithms resulted in a food truck dishing out an apple pie with a totally awesome and unexpected taste. Now that’s how you humanise technology.

Be My Eyes is an iPhone app that connects visually-impaired people with volunteer helpers from around the world.

Visually-impaired people use the camera on their mobile device to shoot live video of whatever it is they need help distinguishing or reading. The challenge could be anything from knowing the expiry date on milk to navigating new surroundings. Sighted volunteer helpers receive a notification for help and a video connection is established. From the live video the volunteer can help the visually-impaired person solve their problem.

The app is open source, which means the source code has been made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

Incredibly useful and very nicely delivered.