When Mercedes wanted to promote its new fuel cell vehicle, instead of placing it squarely in front of everyone in the world, the company decided to make the car invisible. We have video.

In this clever publicity stunt, Mercedes wanted to emphasize that its F-Cell vehicle has no exhaust emissions, making it virtually invisible to the environment. If you take a look at the gallery below, you’ll see how these clever dudes did it: by placing a mat of LEDs across one side of the vehicle and mounting a video-shooting Canon 5D Mark II digital SLR camera on the other side.

We saw a Halloween costume like this once. Mount an iPad on your belly, surround it with costuming that looks like a hole, place a webcam on your back shooting backward, and then feed that video into the iPad. Voilà! It looks like you have a gory hole going all the way through you:


Mercedes is doing basically the same trick. As you can see in the Mercedes video, even though people could still tell there was a car going by, they seemed impressed by the “invisible” fuel-cell vehicle.

Mercedes says its hydrogen-powered drive system is “ready for series production,” but other reports have its commercialization set for 2014. However, fuel-cell technology is still notoriously expensive, partly because hydrogen is a difficult fuel to store and transport. The materials needed to create a viable fuel-cell are still hovering in the pricey stratosphere.

Practicality aside, we applaud Mercedes and its efforts to create a vehicle with zero emissions and less impact on the environment, and admire the lengths to which these artists went to bring home that point.

By the way, with all the ultra-cool cars in the Mercedes stable, why did the company pick a minivan for this showy demo? Oh, we get it: more surface area to mount that video screen.


Invisible Mercedes: Setup



Click here to view this gallery.

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News that popular social bookmarking site Pinterest might be generating revenue by adjusting and tracking the links attached to user-generated pins made the rounds online on Wednesday — but according to the site’s affiliate tracking partner, the concept is hardly a new one.

A report by social media blog LLSocial brought attention to the fact that Pinterest — which allows users to collect and share things they like on the Internet — is using a service called Skimlinks to add affiliate links to products.

“Is Pinterest receiving revenue from tracking user-generated pins? Yes, but there is nothing negative about it,” Skimlinks CEO Alicia Navarro told Mashable. “Affiliated networks help companies monetize their sites and there’s nothing illegal or wrong about it. It’s common, effective and smart. It should be celebrated.”

It’s so common, in fact, that about 18,000 retailers are working with a network of 26 affiliated partners, Navarro said. Publishers from small blogs to bigger companies such as Pinterest work with affiliated partners so when a link directs a visitor to a retailer involved in the affiliated network and makes a purchase, the merchant will pay the affiliated network, who will then pay the publisher. Skimlinks takes about 25% of the generated affiliated revenue.

SEE ALSO: 7 Pinterest Clones: Can You Tell the Difference?
“The advertiser or retailer pays only if the user makes a purchase,” Navarro said. “Pinterest is one of many companies using services like this, and it’s become an ubiquitous practice in online marketing, like investing in banner ads or texting programs.”

However, the cause of concern by some was that Pinterest doesn’t disclose that it modifies its links by adding a tracking code on the site.

“As most bloggers are aware, when you use an affiliate link in your post, you need to provide some type of disclosure either by it clearly being an ad, mentioning it is an affiliate link or at a minimum providing some type of prominent disclosure that your site features affiliate links,” LLSocial said. “This is done because you have a financial interest in promoting the product.”

Although Navarro said the company endorses disclosure, it’s up to the publisher: “I’m sure many publishers and media outlets don’t go out of their way to make it known to users about who their advertising partners are,” Navarro said.

For more information on affiliated networks and how Pinterest is using the service, visit Navarro’s latest blog post on Skimlinks here.

Do you think Pinterest should make it more clear that it’s adding tracking code to user’s pins? Or do you think it doesn’t matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

BONUS: A Pinterest Timeline


March 2010: Pinterest Launched

Pinterest is launched to a closed beta. Later it will move to the email invite system it currently employs.

Click here to view this gallery.

Check Out More of Mashable’s Coverage of Pinterest

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The Leaders in Design Series is supported by Volvo.

Jesse Thomas founded the creative agency JESS3 as a student in 2007. In a few short years, he managed to climb an impressive entrepreneurial ladder. The company has completed projects for Facebook, Google and Nike, among dozens of other tech companies, publications and brands.

Thomas spoke to Mashable about his proudest moments, which include the NASA campaign that checked astronaut Doug Wheelock into Foursquare from outer space. He also reveals the clinical nature of design, explaining that sometimes his work feels more like plastic surgery than an academic endeavor.

Read on to discover where Thomas began and what he sees for the future of design.

Q&A With Jesse Thomas, Founder of JESS3

Explain in your own words the concept and work behind JESS3.

“Our approach to design and strategy is very academic and surgical. Some days we feel like brain surgeons at a top military hospital, other days we feel like plastic surgeons.”

We embody the youthful spirit of our team and clients by constantly pushing to be as great as the masters we study. The vision of JESS3 as an agency has always been to experiment with cutting edge technologies and creative techniques for application in advertising/marketing efforts. Our drive is combining social technology with raw creativity. We have always been interested in visual storytelling and have recently been focusing on data art.

Our approach to design and strategy is very academic and surgical. Some days we feel like brain surgeons at a top military hospital, other days we feel like plastic surgeons. Our clients allow us to think big, and we like that. My goal for JESS3 is two separate paths: [to become] an agency conglomerate like WPP, [and to develop] product design and services like Microsoft.

Your list of services reads like a six-page diner menu. Is there anything you don’t do?


We focus on the things we are good at. But part of being independent is trying things out and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Our core focus has always been interactive design, but as we started doing more information design projects, we needed to have in-house research people.

Our clients wanted us to focus on just strategy, so we started hiring people to do that. We saw an opportunity to combine our infographics design with the modern version of PR, in which the focus is targeting bloggers, so we did that. And clients wanted us to build them large installations for their events, and it seemed straightforward enough, so we learned the bits we weren’t familiar with and made it happen.

The name JESS3 is somewhat eponymous. How did you land on it?

Years ago when I was a student … Eminem was quite popular, and he was writing his name in all caps with the second E as a 3, but because it was in all caps it was subtle. People told me it was a bad idea to use my name, but I looked at successful brands like Ogilvy, and thought about the lineage of consultants like lawyers and doctors, and realized that naming something after yourself is how it’s always been done. Plus, I always liked putting my name on stuff, and it was an excuse to print up stickers and write my name all the time.

Define your own design philosophy and how it continues to influence your company.

We always strive to get things right the first time. Being precise with creativity is not easy, and thus we have needed to hire a team of dedicated professionals that share the same passion for accuracy. We often mock-up multiple directions to find that perfect one, instead of forcing one process to produce that perfect product. We never know what the next project might be, but we can plan ahead and use our experiments in new client projects. We operate like a creative lab in that sense.

What are the projects you’re most proud of?


I’m most proud of our diverse body of work: from an outer space Foursquare check-in for NASA to a stop-motion video production for Google. I am most proud that Facebook asked us to build a site for their 500 million user announcement. It was such an honor at the time, and we continue to work with Facebook.

Where should today’s designers be looking for inspiration?

Look for inspiration in the real world. The web is a great place to start, but strive to see for your own eyes the best works of the world. Go outside and take a pen and paper. I also use Delicious to save all my web links for inspiration, and I still love magazines like Monocle and Wired. Dribbble and Forrst are great new interactive design communities that didn’t exist a year ago. Go there! Communities like Kickstarter, Behance and Etsy are great new places to meet like-minded designers and be inspired by their work. And make sure to always study the history of design — those that forget history are doomed to repeat it!

What’s in the cards for future design?

“Audiences didn’t want rich websites. They wanted the illusion of a lighter option, which to purists is simple, soulless crap.”

Design is on the front lines of everything from saving lives to entertainment. I think you will see more exciting partnerships between industries like music and design. Perhaps it is a combination of game, website and music? Google, for instance, has a sweet small team called Data Arts, which created Arcade Fire’s Wilderness Downtown.

One key thing to look for in the future is better, more accessible tools. Right now we have a huge gap between professional and consumer, which I think will close in the future. I think it totally sucks that Apple and Adobe don’t get along. Apple is the kind of brand that should offer better design tools natively. Motion and Final Cut Pro are great for video and animation, but where are Apple’s Photoshop and Illustrator killers?

Ten years ago we had glorious Flash sites, and that kind of rich experience is what got me excited about digital design. Then web 2.0 came along and social networking made it cool to have a lame website with no design. Somehow we allowed ourselves to step back for the sake of scaling across mobile and unprecedented growth. Audiences didn’t want rich websites. They wanted the illusion of a lighter option, which to purists is simple, soulless crap. Social networking killed the web-design star!

Series supported by Volvo


The Leaders in Design Series is supported by Volvo. Experience the newest Volvo for yourself. Step inside the 325hp 2011 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design at volvocars.us.

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Twitter is dead. Long live, Twitter!

The Internet’s most popular microblogging service got a major upgrade today, rolling out a brand-new look and a bunch of new features. The update is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging change Twitter’s ever done, revamping its website, its apps for both iOS and Android, and even its recently acquired social-media integrator, TweetDeck. Here’s a closer look at what Twitter’s done and why.

What’s Different

When you visit the new Twitter, you can quickly see the site’s been reorganized in some key ways. Everything fits into one of four labels:

  • Home: This is your old news feed, only better. Whereas before media in tweets like photos and videos was viewable on the side, now you can see them right in the tweet (you still need to click). You’ll also be able to see information about @replies and retweets for a particular tweet by selecting “Open,” a new option. Twitter says your feed will now appear “consistently” across platforms. which apparently was a problem before.
  • Connect: This is where all your @replies and mentions will be. Not a lot new here, but Twitter says you can type in someone’s handle will let you learn more about the person and connect instantly.
  • Discover: Twitter appears to have supercharged its search functions and put the results here. More than just a place to look for trending topics and hashtags, Discover will identify stories and trends based on your connections, location and language.
  • Me: Here’s your Twitter profile, made bigger, neater and with more activity recorded. Your information now appears on the left instead of right.
  • Twitter’s mobile apps have been given the same four-column treatment, with streamlined interfaces and a new design. In a subtle change, the old pen icon for drafting a new tweet has been replaced with a quill.

    On the back end, Twitter’s updated its API to allow embedded tweets (more on those in a bit) and some better interactions with various other apps and platforms, like WordPress (disclosure: WordPress is Mashable‘s content management system).

    Why Twitter’s Doing It

    Twitter says it wants to make its interface more inviting to new users, while giving existing users better functionality. But there’s no doubt that a large part of the change has to do with accommodating ways to drum up revenue. Twitter has recently been experimenting with ways to point users toward its advertising services, though it’s done so clumsily at times (case in point: the ill-fated “dickbar” on the iPhone, named after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo). The redesign brings with it opportunities to steer users toward sponsors, specifically through the new branded pages (see below).

    What’s Gone

    We’ll have more information on this after we’ve had a chance to give all the new Twitter apps and the site a thorough hands-on, but on iPhone it appears users can no longer copy and paste from a tweet. Users no longer can translate tweets in other languages. Options to mail, repost, or save links to Instapaper appear to have been removed. And the redesign makes it less convenient to switch accounts.

    An important difference on the Web interface: Profile names are now emphasized whereas the user’s “handle” was front and center before.

    (Thanks to Mashable readers for pointing out many of these changes.)

    Embedded Tweets

    If you have a website, you can now embed individual tweets on a page. It’s sort of like Storify, but just one tweet at a time. From the embed, you can retweet, reply or favorite the tweet, and you can follow the user as well — all without leaving the page. Links and other dynamic content remain active.

    You can see the option to embed a tweet on any tweet’s “permalink” page, accessible via the new Open button. Importantly, tweets that are on private accounts won’t give you the option. Twitter told Mashable. For more on embedded tweets, check out our hands on.

    Twitter also improved its buttons that appear on many websites. Now a Tweet button can include a specific hashtag or @mention, an easier way for sites to get their readers tweeting to specific people and about specific things.

    Brand Pages

    Just like Facebook and Google+, Twitter now has brand pages for companies. Although many, if not most, companies already had their own Twitter accounts, brand pages allow for more functionality and interactions with followers.

    A report in Advertising Age says brands will be able to customize the page with large logos and extended taglines. They’ll also be able to promote tweets in the timeline on their own pages, letting them highlight their best content. Brand pages don’t cost anything, and they’re available to companies large and small.

    User Reaction

    According to a poll of Mashable readers, many users (almost 41% of respondents) love the new changes, saying that the site is “easier to use,” “fantastic” and “pretty kewl.” Some have risen concerns about the features missing in iOS and the necessity of the change, however.

    On Twitter itself, the overall response appears to be positive, with many users reacting with enthusiasm. Most of the negative reactions have to do with mobile, with a few also complaining about the usefulness of “Discover.”

    In contrast to some of its earlier moves this year, Twitter appears to have handled its platform-wide revamp deftly, and the majority of is users are pleased. If it can work out some issues on the mobile side, it may have scored a home run. But the real question will be if the new Twitter can actually serve the company in the area that matters most to all companies: making money.


    More About: Advertising, android, iOS, Twitter

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WordPress.com has announced a program that aims to offer bloggers an alternative to Google’s AdWords for monetizing their sites.

Called WordAds, the offering makes use of WordPress.com’s partnership with Federated Media. Jon Burke, ads lead for WordPress.com, wrote on the company’s blog Tuesday that bloggers have been asking WordPress.com for some time to introduce a monetization program, but “we’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad.”

Burke, however, didn’t divulge any details about how WordAds would be different from AdWords. Instead, the post merely directs users to fill out a form if they’re interested. The page directing users to the form notes that joining WordAds is “100% optional” and that Federated Media sells ads for BoingBoing and Apple Insider.

Though the announcement makes it official, it’s not a surprise. In October, WordPress.com told attendees at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco that the company was teaming up with Automattic and Federated to let users place ads on their blogs. As Burke notes, more than 50,000 WordPress-powered blogs (including both WordPress.com and WordPress.org blogs) come online every day.

Burke said users deserved better than Google’s AdSense. Google didn’t break out revenues for AdWords in its most-recent financial filing, but AdSense programs, which include AdWords, brought in $2.6 billion — 27% of the company’s total revenues — in Q3.

More About: Advertising, blog, Google, google adwords, trending, WordPress.com

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If you have ever wanted to tell Twitter how you feel about its 200 million-member social network, now is the time to do it. Twitter’s Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey tweeted questions Wednesday to attract feedback on the five-year-old service.

A lot has changed since Twitter launched in 2006. To put things into perspective — within the past two months alone — Twitter has:

Earlier this year, Twitter introduced a new version of its homepage with a sleeker design and revamped pitch to potential users; expanded its Local Trends feature to 70 more cities and countries; and updated its search tool to make it easier to find new people to follow.

SEE ALSO: Explore Twitter’s Evolution | A Visual History of Twitter [INFOGRAPHIC]

Dorsey’s all ears (or shall we say, Twears?) now. What praise, gripes or suggestions do you have for Twitter’s inventor?

If you tweet him, leave us a link to your tweet in the comments. We’ll put your best responses in the collection already assembled below.

More About: Advertising, Business, Marketing, Social Media, social networking, Twitter

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Christian Olsen is the head of Levick Strategic Communications’ social and digital media practice. Follow him on Twitter @cfolsendc.

Recently, online properties like Hulu, MSN and Flixster have been caught using a tougher version of the common cookie. These “supercookies” (aka “Flash cookies” and “zombie cookies”) serve the same purpose as regular cookies by tracking user preferences and browsing histories. Unlike their popular cousins, however, this breed is difficult to detect and subsequently remove. These cookies secretly collect user data beyond the limitations of common industry practice, and thus raise serious privacy concerns.

Supercookies are similar to the standard browser cookies most folks are familiar with, but are stored in different locations on a user’s machine, for example, in a file used by a plug-in (Flash is the most common). This makes them harder to find and delete, especially since a browser’s built-in cookie detection process won’t remove them either. Furthermore, some supercookies have additional capabilities, like regenerating regular cookies to prevent their removal by the user.

To make matters worse, removing master supercookies is much more difficult. It requires the user to dig through the file system and delete them manually, an inconvenient task even for advanced users. The novice, on the other hand, likely won’t even realize supercookies exist, let alone be able to find them.

SEE ALSO: 10 Travel Tips for Protecting Your Privacy

The kind of data supercookies track isn’t typical cookie material. A browser limits the typical cookie to be written, read and ultimately removed by the site that created it. The supercookie, on the other hand, operates outside of established safeguards. It can track and record user behavior across multiple sites. While it’s easy to understand that a site would want to track a user’s activity while she navigates its turf, it’s ethically questionable that site operators are able to record a user’s actions beyond site parameters.

In several cases, a company’s supercookie is the result its partnership with a digital marketing firm that places a high value on user behavior. In response to FTC pressure, the Internet ad and marketing industry responded by publishing “self-regulatory” policies, although it restricts itself from little else than a user’s medical records.

To the majority of the public, this type Internet tracking is outside of the bounds of acceptable conduct. While the “right to track” may be written into a terms of use or user agreement contract, it is often not fully disclosed or within the realm of industry standards, rendering its legal defense moot. Furthermore, tracking provokes a breach of trust between user and site — and consumers have historically exhibited intolerance to brand betrayal.

While many companies that had been challenged on their use of supercookies were quick to cease, some choose to continue the practice. Many web marketing firms, advertisers and less-than-scrupulous websites still refuse to follow industry best practices — they continue to practice knowingly. And many more sites don’t even realize they’re utilizing supercookies in the first place.

Whether it has decided to cease web tracking or not, the company at risk needs to beware of losing control of already collected data. A data breach would result in catastrophic — and perhaps incurable — brand distrust. A user’s discovery of a company’s surreptitious data collection and the subsequent vulnerability of that data could easily spell the end of a brand’s reputation.

Companies that care about reputation and user trust should audit their sites and properties to ensure that data collection and the use of supercookies parallel user expectations. This analysis applies to the site, its advertisers and any third party tools or plug-ins. Companies need to ensure that all data collection has been thoroughly disclosed in order to avoid legal liability.

Companies should not wait for a problem to arise before initiating a comprehensive data security overview. A regular screening of all user data and its safeguards is good practice. The cost a company suffers for securing its data and customer trust is small compared to the business and public relations fallouts that would result from a security breach.

A successful company will always make a comprehensive attempt at transparency by handling data responsibly. The use of data tracking tools like supercookies does not rank highly in consumer acceptance, whether its application is technically “legal” or not. Regardless of the manner in which information is collected, know that negligent data handling will not be excused by claims that a company was in the dark about its collection practices. In the eyes of the consumer, the more data collected, the more of an obligation that company has to keep it safe.

Images courtesy of Flickr, ssoosay, Jeremy Brooks

More About: Business, cookies, data collection, privacy, trending

When Swedish ad agencies Grey Stockholm and Ogilvy Stockholm made plans to merge, they decided to add a social media component to get fans involved.

The two agencies asked fans to participate by signing into Facebook to see the new name. Every time new people logged on to the dedicated site, the logo added their profile picture. With every picture, the logo got a little bigger, until 2,890 fans’ photos composed the full name, Ingo, over a four-hour period.

Ingo’s not the only one, of course, to attempt a collage of Facebook photos. Here at Mashable, we’re planning to outfit our New York City headquarters with the world’s largest real-life Facebook wall. That effort is set for March 1.

[Via TNW]

More About: advertising, Faceboo, trending

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Like a 21st century version of the choose-your-own-adventure books, interactive YouTube videos can up the engagement factor by letting the viewer decide the course of the action, or just play around with the content.

With Tippex seeing success with its A Hunter Shoots a Bear campaign, and Samsung and Rogers also testing the interactive video waters lately, we expect to see more creative campaigns from companies in 2011.

Meanwhile, we’ve found 10 top interactive YouTube experiences, from both businesses and individuals, that incorporate gameplay, quizzes and just plain old fashioned entertainment for your viewing pleasure.

So, prepare to engage with the gallery below and let us know your thoughts on this potentially exciting medium.

1. La Linea Interactive

A tribute to the popular Italian animated series
La Linea, this is a great use of the choose-your-own format from YouTube master Patrick Boivin.

2. The YouTube Electric Guitar

Wait for this vid to load all the way up, then click on different places in the timeline to play different chords. Just no “Stairway to Heaven,” y’hear?

3. The Treasure Hunt: A Chad, Matt & Rob Interactive Adventure!

Chad, Matt and Rob are masters of the interactive YouTube adventure genre. While their earlier work is also worth checking out, this is their latest effort, and it’s a doozie!

4. Ronald Has A Spider On His Head: An Interactive Mis-Adventure!

Very much an amateur effort, this nonetheless has a place in our heart as an early example of the format. Also, it’s LEGO!

5. Choose a Different Ending

Warning: The video above contains some violent imagery, and may not be appropriate for all ages or viewing in the workplace.

Created for the Drop the Weapons campaign, this realistic video seeks to educate kids about the consequences of making the wrong decisions. Remember kids, just as in life, you decide the ending.

6. YouTube Radio

This is as much fun to interact with as we’d imagine it was to write and record the music for all the different genres. Jazz is our fave, in case you were wondering.

7. Deliver Me to Hell

Warning: The video above contains some violent imagery, and may not be appropriate for all ages or viewing in the workplace.

We think it could be argued that zombies and pizza are pretty much the perfect combo for 20 minutes of YouTube fun. This fab promo for New Zealand pizza chain “Hell Pizzas” brings both. Can you deliver the pies across town without getting on the wrong side of the undead?

8. Howard Glitch

Anything that starts “you are trapped inside a spaceship that is headed for a fatal destination” has our attention right away. This Kickstarter-backed “point’n’click’n’escape” game brings some existential angst and quantum mechanics to the YouTube platform. Knowing that, how can you not click through?

9. Bboy vs Joker

More from the talented Patrick Boivin here with the brilliant concept of a break dancing duel between The Joker and Batman. How does Boivin come up with this stuff?

10. Who Wants to be a YouTubillionaire?

If you can stand Dan Brown’s off-the-charts perkiness, then this interactive faux game show is incredibly well put together — it even includes “phone a friend” side narratives.

More Video Resources from Mashable:

10 Captivating Time-Lapse Design Videos
10 Excellent Examples of Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns [VIDEOS]
10 Stories Beautifully Told with Animated Typography [VIDEOS]
10 Incredibly Inspirational Moments on YouTube [VIDEOS]
10 Super Social Media Songs [VIDEOS]

More About: advertising, interactive videos, List, Lists, online advertising, video, videos, youtube

In an attempt to improve upon the paltry click-through rates on most banner ads, USA Network recently rolled out a banner promoting the show White Collar, asking users to play a game on The New York Times‘s home page (iPad only).

The ad, created by Glow Interactive, features a small “scanner” screen, which, when dragged over Times‘ homepage, revealed hidden ciphers and keywords. When all were found, the user was treated to a “bonus video” hyping the show’s second season premiere earlier this month.

This isn’t the first time that The New York Times has allowed its home page to be overrun with interactive banners. In 2009, the “Mac” and “PC” from Apple’s long-running campaign conversed with an actor in a fake ad across the page. Like the USA banner, it’s cute, but may be a bit off contextually. In the demo above, for instance, the game interacts with a story about suspected mass murderer Jared Loughner — hardly the sort of topic any brand wants to be seen making light of.

More About: advertising, banner ads, ipad, the new york times