Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Hunger Games in Switzerland #6

I must kill 24 people in a Swiss reality TV show, or they will cut off my supply of pizza, beer, and wine. My name is Andrew Girardin. This is my story.

Previously on The Hunger Games - #1 "It begins" - #2 "Milk" - #3 Elevators - #4 A Guest - #5 On Air


Friday, July 20, 2012

Philips Wake Up Light Review

1994 - Manchester
07:55 GMT
Mum: "Andrew, wake up! It's time for school!"
Me: "Shut up! I hate you! Leave me alone!"
Mum: "You'll miss the bus."
Me: "The bus is a dick! Shut UP!"

2012 - Zurich
06:55 - CET
Bird: "Chirpy chirpy chirpy chirp."
Me: "Hmm?"
Bird: "Chirp chirpchirp chirp."
Me: "Thanks, little birdy! You're my best friend!"

The Philips Wake-up Light

In Switzerland, people wake up early. What does early mean? My students typically wake up between 5 and 6 and start work as early as 7. This insanity never bothered me until this year, when my earliest classes moved from just before lunch to 07:30.

I didn't think I could cope. But then I found the Philips Wake-up Light (WuL).
A guy trying his Wake-up Light for the first time
Here's what it does: I set it for 07:00. At 06:30 the light turns on, dimly. Over the next half an hour, it gets brighter. By 07:00 it's as bright as a Californian tooth. At that point the device turns on the radio, or plays bird chirping noises, or steel drums.

It's supposed to wake you up in a natural way. I've been using it for 6 months. Does it work?

Life before Wake-up Light
The perfect peace of the morning is shattered by my phone's alarm clock. The nasty, brutal tone was discovered by researchers at Nokia who had been briefed to find cutesy jingles and, as so often happens in Finland, achieved the exact opposite.

I feel like a painting ripped out of its frame. I had been in the middle of a lovely dream. I compare the dream (lovely) with what's scheduled for the day (soul-destroying) and, furious, I smash the pillow with my fist. I'm a grumpy asshole for the next 2 hours and no-one is allowed to talk to me.

Life now
I wake up fifteen minutes before the alarm is due because the room is bathed in light. I feel like I've woken up in a beach-side hotel. I look at the time, am astonished that it's so early, more astonished that I've woken up before the alarm noises have started, and most astonished to realise that I'm not grumpy. I turn off the light and the room is plunged into utter darkness - the difference is startling. It's amazing how bright the kettle-sized thing gets. I get up and start my day.

* I found that some mornings it was still hard to get out of bed, even with the Wake-up Light. Those mornings correlated perfectly with drinking alcohol the night before. I've learned that if I have to get up early the next day I shouldn't drink. (Shocking new information!)

* A new family of birds have nested somewhere near my flat. They sound exactly like the birds on the Wake-up Light. I do not believe this can be a coincidence. Sometimes their birdsong wakes me up because I think it's the alarm going off. This is a cosmic joke at my expense.

The inbuilt radio is handy if, like me, you don't have a radio. I'm forced by Switzerland to buy a radio license, so I might as well listen to it from time to time. Alert readers will have identified this compulsory license as a HUGE EVIL SCAM.

* You can use the WuL as a bedside lamp, but I don't, because I have a cool one from Ikea that you touch to turn on.

* Nick and Cecile bought one because I was raving about mine. Their feedback is that it seems to work well for couples even when one has to wake up much earlier than the other.

* Mine (model HF3470) cost 120 Francs (80 pounds, 120 USD, 100 Euros).

The Wake-up Light is not cheap, but it's worth every penny. If my mum had bought me one when I was a teenager, she'd had saved herself a lot of undeserved grief. Sorry, mum!

Philips gave Wake-up Lights to a whole village in the Arctic and made a nice video about it. Watch it here.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Google Adwords

Note - this post is about advertising. If you're like me your eyes probably skip adverts. That would defeat the purpose of reading this, though. Because it's about adverts.

I got a nice surprise in the mail one morning - 100 francs from Google! The catch was that I had to use it for Adwords - those ads you see when you do searches. Fine with me - I could use it to promote my blog.

Setting up the Adwords account was easy enough, as was creating my first advert. Fine-tuning everything was a total pain in the ass, but I solved the problem by not fine-tuning anything.

It was fun thinking up advertising campaigns. My first was simple - I had just written my Lego Batman post and thought it deserved some extra hits. If you had typed 'Lego Batman' into Google a while ago you might have seen this:

Next I decided it'd be easy to get traffic to my 'score points with chicks' articles. I came up with this killer ad:

But dammit! The ad didn't meet Google's punctuation policy so the site wouldn't allow it. Adwords doesn't allow 'excessive punctuation.' WTF?!?!!!

Necessity being the mother of invention, I came up with one even better:

It had a sense of urgency guaranteed to have results!

Judging by the number of icons and tabs and subsections on the Campaign Management page, it was clear to me that there were a million tips and tricks to doing this Adwords thing right and that I knew none of them. It'd been 8 minutes since I'd set up my first ad, and I'd had zero clicks on it. I had to use the 100 francs by the end of the month, three weeks away. I was FAILING.

Solution? Create more ads! One of my True Love comics, the Harry Potter Sorting Hat one, received very little attention. It should have become an internet phenomenon because it's so outstandingly awesome. So I decided to blow half my budget on it.

What Harry Potter fan could resist that? I'd know when I woke up in the morning.


11 Hours Later

Advertising works! Look at my traffic:

The spike on the far right was mostly traffic generated by Adwords. It cost me 13.29 Francs. Was this good value? I had no idea.

Most hits went to The Sorting Hat advert, with far fewer going to the Score Chicks one. I think there's almost no-one else running adverts about the hat, whereas campaigns for being good with women are ten a penny. So the success of the Sorting Hat advert made sense.

Then I investigated the problem with the Lego Batman ads, which had generated no hits. It was my first attempt, and I probably didn't do it very well. Ah! I had set it up as UK-only. I set up a second, worldwide ad with better keywords and a snappier hook:

It worked for a couple of days, but with my balance dwindling I switched off all the ads and thought about which post I'd like to get most hits. The post about Kiva had inspired someone to join my team lending money to hard-working entrepreneurs, so that was an obvious choice. 

That worked pretty well in generating hits, but I was burning through my money.

Next day I got a scary mail from Google complaining about the Score Chicks NOW ad. Seems it's okay to lure horny men to my unhelpful blog, but it isn't okay to capitalise the word NOW. I didn't realise I had been breaking the Law of Google. They warned me that further breaches of the Law of Google could result in me having my account terminated and even being barred from using the internet for a period of up to 8 months. All hail our digital masters!

I wrote a brilliant piece about zombies, and decided to create two adverts for it to see which brought in the most traffic. Like a race or something.

Advert 1 used the keyword 'weird', which hooks me effectively. Many a time I've clicked on links such as 'weird celebrity weight loss secrets' or 'weird ways Google can make your life a misery forever'.
Advert 2 played on people's fears.
Notice how I messed up the word apocalypse? It didn't matter, because few people who search for information about zombie apocalypses can spell it, either!

I set up the ads with a daily budget of 5 francs, plus the Kiva one was still running at 5 francs a day. I slashed the Cost Per Click from .80 or whatever it was to 0.20. CPC is how much Google charges me when someone clicks an ad and visits my website. Amazingly, this simple change turned out to be the third best business decision I'd ever made. (Second best was to become addicted to The Apprentice. First was falling in love with Sarah Beeny from Property Ladder.)

On my first day of advertising, I paid 16 francs for 35 clicks. A week later I'd got used to the system and was paying 5 chuffs for 50 clicks. By the end of the project I was able to 25 hits per day with 1 franc by setting a CPC of 0.02. 

I'd proven that advertising works and that thinking up slogans is both fun and stupidly easy.

Q. How did you get the 100 francs?
A. I think it was because I signed up to put google adverts on my blog.

Q. Did anyone join your Kiva team as a result of the ads?
A. No.

Q. So if I do adverts should I just set a really low CPC?
A. I think so, but maybe I've missed the point a bit. I understand very little of the process.

Q. How successful were the ads?
A. The Zombies adverts ran the longest and the post is currently my number one ever in terms of hits. Of the two ads, the 'weird' one was slightly more effective than the 'fear' one.