Tech-Savvy Chimp Helps Yahoo Promote New Site

New Yorkers Face Off Against Picture-Taking Ape

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NEW YORK ( -- New Yorkers probably like to think they have evolved beyond the chimpanzee. So Yahoo asked them yesterday to prove it in the city's Bryant Park.
Elizabeth Harz, category development officer-technology, Yahoo; Cody the chimpanzee; and Pat Houston, general manager, Yahoo Tech.
Elizabeth Harz, category development officer-technology, Yahoo; Cody the chimpanzee; and Pat Houston, general manager, Yahoo Tech.

In an event that successfully drew a small crowd (despite cold, rainy weather) to support the company's new technology-centered site Yahoo Tech, visitors raced against a chimp to see who could take a digital photograph, take out the memory card and print it first.

This Ad Age reporter beat the 6-year-old simian, named Sable, by 14 seconds. And it wasn't just any chimp, but a former space chimp specially trained to perform the camera trick. And she had help from a trainer.

Technology training
The point of the event, said Bennett Porter, senior director of Buzz Marketing, Yahoo's internal marketing group that specializes in nontraditional events and stunts, was to show how chimp can be trained to use technology. "The way that the monkey uses a trainer to learn how to take a digital photo is how consumers can use Yahoo Tech to do the same thing."

So the question is: Are consumers monkeys to Yahoo?

"Let's face it, we've all felt like a monkey when setting up a computer," Ms. Porter said. Twenty years ago, the biggest tech problem at home was how to get the digital clock to stop flashing on the VCR. Now consumers have to figure out the technical details of cellphones, computers, DVRs and PDAs.

"Most people today continue to find technology, the technology they use in their everyday lives, complex, overwhelming [and] intimidating," said Patrick Houston, general manager of Yahoo Tech. He said the site, which launched May 1, should be a place where people can go to learn about technology in an entertaining way, without cryptic jargon.

'Hook Me Up' launches
Yesterday also marked the launch of a Web-based show called "Hook Me Up." Viewable on Yahoo Tech, the program's a cross between "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Pimp My Ride," providing makeovers for the technologically challenged. The first segment, running about four minutes, shows a young woman who owns a TV that is older than she is. By the end of the show she has an high-definition TV, DVD player and cable box with digital video recorder included.

Each episode of "Hook Me Up" has three segments: The video sent in by the technologically challenged, the segment showing the individual getting hooked up and a how-to section at the end. The catch here is that the technologically challenged person has to be skilled enough to upload a film of him or herself to send it in. Once that happens, the Yahoo Tech community can vote on who can gets hooked up. Verizon Wireless is the exclusive sponsor for program's three-month run; a new show will "air" each week for six months, Mr. Houston said.

According to a statement by Yahoo Tech, the site is meant to serve as the "new anchor for consumer technology advertising on the Yahoo network." Yahoo, on the other hand, doesn't need to go too far from its home page to advertise itself. The company mostly promoted Yahoo Tech on the Yahoo network.
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