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So it's official, "Applications are the white goods of the 21st century" and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2 billion threshold in the US and iTunes has more than one billion downloads.

But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party - Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay-walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don't actually "own" them - they cannot sell them secondhand on eBay.

I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding. Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren't.

What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership.

And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things. Which are big problems in the virtual economy.

So my provocation is this: "Virtual packaging" is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trademarks on to commodities in the tangible world, we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.

The most obvious examples of this are apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic). And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?


When US troops first arrived in the UK during the Second World War, they were greeted with the label "Overpaid, Oversexed & Over Here". Which doesn't seem that inappropriate for the news that iAds are coming to Europe.

With rumours of a minimum spend of $1 million and lots of hype, the first European iAds will kick off in December in the UK and France. Apple reports that it has signed deals with L'Oreal, Renault, Louis Vuitton, Nespresso, Perrier, Unilever, Citi, Evian, LG Display, AB InBev, Turkish Airlines and Absolute Radio.

The FT talks of enthusiasm waning and quotes a number of agency people dissing them. "They are expensive and a pain to deal with," one media agency's digital chief said. "Apple is in a weaker position than you'd think," another agency's digital leader said.

To be fair to Apple, it's very interesting that the quoted people are anonymous - most agency people would love to be quoted in the FT. A key factor driving gripes is that Apple chose to go direct to advertisers - and agencies hate that. ITV and Google are always in trouble with agencies for having people who talk direct with clients because Jack-of-alltrades agencies fear their client might learn more about the opportunity than them - or have told the client.

Apple is justifiably proud that iAd has signed on half of the top 25 leading US national advertisers in just four months.

We do know that two advertisers have pulled out in the US; Chanel cited expense as an issue and Adidas talked of creative differences. But if Apple creative control has driven brands to create mobile specific campaigns - and avoided the Louis Vuitton approach where the only requirement for the mobile or digital ads is to match the above the line - that has to be positive.

iAd success stories will bring more brands and more money into mobile and that is good for everyone.


We're all addicts of the more, more, more culture. Overconsuming is something we're all guilty of, whether it's a big car you don't really need, a steak bigger than your head or humongous matching TV screens in the bathroom. We have been overconsuming for so long that our garages or attics are full to bursting with stuff you don't use. Don't believe me? Go on! Take a look in your closet! Any space?

The Smart (Car) "Against Dumb" movement is about curbing your appetite for more mindless stuff, more excess bulk. By dejunking your life of the things you don't really need, it frees you up to concentrate on what's really important to you. The freedom to move unburdened. Join "Against Dumb" and fight the brainwashing! Stop overconsumption!

Smart doesn't want to spoil your fun. But wouldn't it be great if we all just once in a while thought, as we reached for our wallets ... do I really need this? Maybe then we could get cars in our garages instead.