Tag Archives: Events

5 Facts That Affect GREAT Social


Holiday Inn Express has just gotten past the hump of their nine city, SelfiePancake Express truck tour and there’s already a few pieces of learning to be gained from this strong social content event. Signing Rob Riggle as the “Creative Director” for this campaign touting Holiday Inn Express’ newly launched 60-second pancake maker that includes a food truck outfitted with quirky and cool technology placing visitors’ selfies on the pancake themselves was very smart. The concept is a good one, but both wins and losses are showing in the middle of the campaign that makes a stop in Los Angeles this weekend. Here’s five of them…

CONTENT STRATEGY DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ON-THE-NOSE – This campaign doesn’t blatantly tout the things you usually associate with hotel stays – hospitality, comfort, etc. – to engender conversion. They key on a secondary offering in this content – their included breakfasts and spiffy pancake maker – to add to the aura while having some fun. It’s definitely not a hard sell to stay at their locations, but its a meaningful one.

HASHTAG STRATEGY SHOULD CLARIFY, NOT CONFUSE – Looking at just some of the collateral for this campaign, there’s not one, not two, but three hashtags presented. The most beneficial to this campaign is the #PancakeSelfie tag due to the content and context. The second one – #StaySmart – makes sense as it is their current corporate hashtag. But, that general tag should not have the prominence it does on this campaign and one can wonder why they chose such a generally vague tag when other hotel chains and organizations use the same tag. When choosing a hashtag, you should know you’ll be able to completely own it (again, no confusion.) And, the third hashtag is the most confusing – #DontWaffle. Besides the obvious point that a waffle is not a pancake, it just bifurcates the audience and certainly does not inspire by leading with a negative – a sentiment not aligned with their overall branding or this campaign.

POSITIONING CELEBRITY IN CREATIVE WAYS IS A WIN – They made a smart move by incorporating talent (Rob Riggle) as not just a spokesperson, but an executive of the company. We’re not sure if he’s being anything more than creative for the company, but it puts a different spin that alludes to the fun the chain is poking at themselves. As Riggle proves, the change in perspective allows more flexibility in storytelling and relate-ability. There’s a number of videos that were created and, with Riggle’s talent, there probably was enough content on the cutting room floor to complete a half-dozen more.

AUDIENCES NEED AN INCENTIVE – OR TO BE INSPIRED – TO POST TO THE SOCIAL NETWORKS – This is absolutely not scientific (due to just being a quick look at hashtags to get a sense of how many people were tagging posts properly), but there are an incredibly low number of people posting pictures of their #PancakeSelfies. Pardon the pun, but the table was set with plates that had all the right branding printed to surround the pancake and the participants just didn’t bite. Either they felt it was not cool enough to post without prodding, or an incentive like a “post to win” mechanism was needed. In this case, the chain could have offered a lucky person(s) a few free nights.

PR AND OUTREACH IS ESSENTIAL TO EVENT SOCIAL PROGRAMMING – When reviewing location mentions, the actual locations were surprisingly not posted with the hashtag – as far as we could see. And we definitely couldn’t find exact location call-outs from the official social feeds. The location announcements were found through local media outlets. Without knowing how many people showed up at each location, we can’t tell how effective they were, but it does show that events need tight integration with the communications teams to activate all outlets. In the case of this campaign, the fact that we don’t know where the truck is going to be in Los Angeles – and there’s nothing in the feeds about past locations (except Long Beach), there’s a hole in the plan.

So, Holiday Inn Express has done a great job with the Social Content Concept and execution on a good number of the pieces. It just highlights that all of a campaigns components (social or otherwise) really need to be addressed and aligned to see holistic success and a return on the efforts of a hard-working team.

Tragedy And The Brand Collateral Damage

Upon seeing the horrible replays of the horrible event during last week’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, I couldn’t help but notice the surrounding banners and logos that seared themselves into my memory.  Though neither John Hancock Financial nor Adidas had absolutely anything to do with the disastrous events, those images of banners and apparel logos are forever connected.  Of course, the idea of this happening at a sponsored event never crossed the marketers minds – and hopefully it never will – to dictate whether they should participate. But, what if it did?  Would brands evaluate terror risk before sponsoring an event for fear of the collateral damage of repeated impressions shrouded in tragedy?


I realize that, in the larger scheme of things surrounding tragic events, this topic is irrelevant and possibly tasteless, but it is absolutely real. The question is whether the represented brands do anything in response specifically because of the connection, or do they shy away from continuing the connection for fear of getting into a no-win situation.

To illustrate that thin line between good and opportunistic – what if Adidas were to do a campaign to raise funds for the survivors or even promote the fact that they might provide funding toward prosthesis for those who lost limbs? Either one is worthy at its core ( Adidas is already doing a fundraising campaign and John Hancock seeded One Fund with $1Million) but it becomes a matter of how one chooses to promote either one. Again, is the goal to place your brand in a positive light, in light of the fact that it was so connected to negative?  Or, is the goal to do good and the positive light will be a byproduct and not the goal… It really comes down to intention and messaging.

In a little side note, beyond what Adidas is doing in response, Nike actually had to remove Boston Massacre products that they had already created in celebration of the storied NY Yankees/Boston Red Sox rivalry. In Nike’s case, they weren’t even involved in the marathon, but were still affected by a branding and taste issue.

My hope is that Adidas, John Hancock and even New Balance can afford to do even more to help those most deeply affected by the bombing.  Of course, it can’t be expected.  But, if Adidas provided apparel or prosthesis for the injured; NB provided apparel or prosthesis for the injured and Hancock provided financial resources for the injured and the families of the deceased that would be very cool.

In this case, who knows if it will be more financial support to the grieving and the survivors beyond what we’re already seeing. In the spirit of the event, the city and the aftermath, all of the sponsors will most likely come out even stronger next year. And, hopefully, nobody will make the wrong move and be conveyed as opportunistic or scared.

And even more hopefully, this kind of tragedy will never happen again and the question will not arise for brands in considering their sponsorship of events and whether there might ever be a negative connection with their brand.

MTV’s Large-Scale Light That We Should All Pounce On

MTV and MoMA (specifically their PS1 imprint) have gone retro with some great “new” programming that will hopefully do wonders for the arts in general.  In partnership with non-profit public arts group, Creative Time, they are bringing back a show from the ’80s that celebrates the video art form. The Art Breaks programming consists for 30 second interstitials that will air on MTV shedding a light on the urban art scene, among others. What first began in 1985 will begin anew.  I know I saw them when they first came out and had no idea who Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or Kenny Scharff when they were shown in Art Breaks on MTV in my mid teens, but there was certainly no other way I was going to be able to experience them otherwise.  Even while I attended arts schools, these artists weren’t celebrated in schools – yet these artists were the ones who were resonating with me. Those early experiences played a heavy part in my art appreciation now – and certainly play themselves out in my current love of collecting art. This sort of contextual promotion of the arts on a large-scale is absolutely needed and the model MTV provides should be pounced upon as often as possible by brands and media outlets.

Image from Original MTV Art Break series clip featuring Basquiat

With schools reducing expenditures for arts classes and experiences when they are needed most, somebody must jump into the fray or else our future is in major trouble. If you don’t think that’s the case, take a look at the state of the arts over the past few decades when government money has dwindled and appreciation for the arts has been made available only to ever smaller groups of students.  There is an increasing limit on new and provocative works of art, film or theatre.  Different forms of imagination are being pushed to the wayside with a growing “normalness” all around. As a sign of the times, there are many people who are great at the technical aspects of business, but not so great at the imaginative parts and the amounts of companies that take off exponentially are dwindling. But those existing companies can do much to address it. Even sports entities can get into the act – just look at what Leroy Neiman did (and still does) in joining the sports realm and art. He was able to do it through magazines, like Playboy, that were the zenith at the time.  Others can do the same if given the opportunity on big enough platforms today.

Even Apple – who has so much in their reserves – should be doing more to contextually bring the arts to the masses.  Perhaps instead of providing dividends (or as much as they might be providing) they should be providing financial resources that enable kids and young adults to have more experiences that raise the level of imagination.  In the least, Brands should be looking to do their part by marrying the arts and their products in ways that make sense.

There have been instances in the past where brands might have done something with the arts on a smaller scale.  Some examples are a program Hot Wheels did with Gallery 1988, or hotels bringing art into the mix (but you would hope the guests are already attuned to what is out there), or even what Disney is doing with artists for their Vinylmation Figures line, it may not be enough.  They are either hitting people in too pointed or niche of a way, or the luxury brands are hitting the people who, while a great benefit to society, are the people who are least in need.

There is a huge opportunity to generate arts awareness in products or advertising, but an even larger one is in the sponsorship of festivals or events.  But, I’m not talking about sponsorship just to get the name recognition.  There’s got to be some partnerships to promote arts awareness and education in general. By just sponsoring an event and not incorporating any of the outreach that would lead to a larger scale, it just doesn’t hold the power that more programs like Art Breaks on MTV would bring.

There are probably a slew of programs that I don’t even know about, but those should be lauded and celebrated. The incorporation of young artist designs on Volcom shirts are great, but they are few and far in between. The same could be said about the partnership with Levi’s Jeans support of ART IN THE STREETS at MOCA.  Its good, but not enough.

We’re all missing out in the long run if there is nothing to drive interest in the arts among the masses – and the 13-24 demo is a perfect place to aim for.  Does it do the best thing for the brands who execute the programs? That will depend on who is doing it and what the context is. But there are certainly creative ways to make it a win-win.  In ever-smaller circles, much emphasis is being placed on the value of art by the likes of Damian Hirst/Warhol/Gaugin, the sales of performances of the dance masterpieces by Ailey/Tharp/Joffrey, or the resonant brilliance of Glass/Handel/Shostakovich, but the true value of expanding the reach of the arts like these and more goes far beyond a sale.  It goes to the very core of our society not turning into IDIOCRACY. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, you should.

The classic meaning of the Patrons of the Arts is almost gone and the void is ripe for filling by the brands and mediums that have the reach like no others.  It’s time to step up and grasp the change for the benefit of our future. If MTV is, we all should…

When the Ball Drops, Do Event Driven Apps Make Sense?

Heading feverishly fast into the new year, this is the last entry until January 3rd.  If you’re like me, you may not have all your plans locked for the New Year’s Eve celebration – but a new App may help you be a part of the largest celebration no matter where you are.  The organizers of the Times Square NYE festivities have released the Times Square Ball App that has multiple features to enhance your celebration wherever you are in the world.  Users will be able to watch a live video feed of the 6 hour coverage provided by livestream or watch the fixed ball camera feed.  Other features include being able to share your NYE photos and find more information about the Times Square celebration and its history. The App seems to be quite rich for such an event, but it poses the question of whether it makes sense to create an App for a single event like this.

It seems that the creators of the App forged a strong partnership with Toshiba to enable some of the shared images through the App to appear on Toshiba’s screen directly below the ball.  Toshiba receives some strong promotional placement in both the App experience and its social sharing features.  But then what?Is the chance of having an image appear on the screen enough of an incentive to download the App?  That seems to be the main gist of their promotional video.  Will people care enough to have the App so that they can stream the video and be a virtual part of the Times Square celebration?  This is the piece that is the most interest to me personally, but I don’t know that it will be what drives me to download the App. They tease that there will be Times Square benefits throughout the year, but it is unclear what they are.

Toshiba has the opportunity to carry the product through the year if they leverage the user-generated assets that are uploaded.  If they find a way to really bridge from one year to the next – or at least into the 1st quarter of 2012 in a meaningful way, then it can end up being about more than just one night.  It is also not clear whether they plan to do so or not.

It all comes back to the concern about building Apps for singular events.  There was an influx of development for movie promotional Apps when the mobile Apps were the new, bright and shiny object.  Most of them were simple with limited use beyond the release.  A few were made with the title in mind, but provided enjoyment beyond and without the film it was promoting.  Other annual events have introduced Apps to help engage audiences or offer value adds.  Their true value to the advertiser or financer is whether it meets their needs or goals.  

I would question their value if it is all about driving awareness for an event or product release.  If the App is developed in the interest of increasing engagement and providing a longer interaction tail and perhaps stronger loyalty, it would be more worth it from the development perspective.  Then its all about development and building something that resonates with users and drives the downloads you can leverage into future growth – whatever your chosen parameter is.

In relation to the Times Square App, I don’t know that its more than a gimmick.  The live component seems valuable only for those on the East Coast and, even then, only if you are celebrating somewhere far from a TV and want to gather around your mobile.  With so many other ways to share your photos on social media platforms without the help of this App, I wonder how many people will care – especially if the chance of having your picture show on the big screen is limited at best.  (I would rather take my chance of having involvement with a big screen in Times Square be related to the Hyundai game that is currently running underneath the Toshiba screen.)

Perhaps they will figure out a way to grow the App depending on number of downloads and increase the value and benefit well beyond New Years Eve. Again, it all comes down to what their goals were for the App…

Here’s hoping you have (or had) a wonderful holiday season and phenomenal New Year’s Eve – and an even better 2012!  See you next year!

MTV Shows a Sexy Model for Web Events

It’s rare to see a media outlet that does not either create exclusive shorts or post highlights for web and mobile in order to support on-air properties.  It’s even rarer to see a media outlet putting all their eggs in the online basket in the hopes of generating more buzz for the channel or brand.  MTV just pulled off that rarer feat last week with their MTV O Music Awards online-only program celebrating music and the use of digital to drive fan engagement.  With the infrastructure many organizations have to activate and record events like this, what MTV has done is a model for others moving into the future.

While it is still too early to measure analytics comparable to on-air, the opportunities gained from programming like this are strong enough to carry through to that future time when the numbers could actually hold their own against broadcast. There were a few interesting elements of the OMAs.  The first was the voting process – which was done through Twitter and Facebook.  In a report at CNN Money, they cite eleven million people voting through Twitter.

There was another point that the CNN article brought up that was key.  Having events like this online allows for the inclusion of advertisers who either can’t afford spots on-air or don’t want to be that broad to begin with. The point was made that the real key for advertisers is whether viewers were buzzing about certain parts of the show or actual advertisements.  For that element, it seems that just airing the content in and of itself might not be enough.  There should be communication and connectivity features surrounding the video player.  By doing this, its much easier to track what’s going on in real-time and then port those elements out via Twitter or Facebook regardless of the form the communications were made – generating even more interest for viewing repeats of the show or highlights.

As we’ve seen with basic cable and even network news before, they have done a good job of capturing a bunch of content and either repurposing elements (like ESPN and X-Games) or drawing elements out across multiple programs to drive viewership of other shows (like Presidential or celebrity interviews.)  By doing these lower-cost events, there could be opportunities for cost-effective content creation that could actually make it on-air within the right packaging.

These are just a few of the benefits of this type of programming. Certainly, MTV’s execution might have left something to be desired – I wish they had shown the examples of the nominees’ work (especially for the Digital Genius award) rather than just show their names – but they have time to iron their programming out.  Online and Mobile is still considered a medium where people don’t pay as much attention, so time can be taken to refine mechanics. 

With the resources broadcast and cable companies have and the growing trend for viewers to watch content via outlets other than televisions, this is the future and it would be a huge miss for the established outlets to not take advantage of what web-specific events have to offer in broadening their reach, providing additional advertising inventory and generating content that can be repurposed cost-effectively.

A Challenge or Opportunity In Your Community

If you look at the results from a Pew Reasearch study that was just released a few weeks ago, it seems that Newspaper is not entirely dead when it comes to local information and events. It does seem to make perfectly clear that there are opportunities to fill the gap to provide comprehensive local community updates.  The question is whether the gap is worth the investment to fill it due to its many challenges.

How People Learn About Their Local Community
News Source % Of All Adults Who Rely Most On Source
Local newspaper (includes print and web)


Local TV (broadcast and web)




Internet (search, social, web)


Local government (office and web)

< 2

Word of mouth


Print bulletin or newsletter


Mobile phone (apps and email)

< 2

Other sources


Source: Pew Research, January 2011 data

The study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Project, produced in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation covers a lot of ground without a clear guide on the future – but that should be expected with the proliferation and lack of consistent sources evident local media.

Depending on the market, local television news spends most of its time on the sensational news – which doesn’t carry much personal community relevance. Additionally, their viewership hits an older demographic as does Newspapers who do cover those local communities to an extent.  There are weeklies who might hit a younger audience – like the Village Voice, LA Weekly and Boston Phoenix – and even smaller community papers who do cover local items more fully, but they struggle to stay afloat and are seeing their distribution continue to shrink.  Most digital news aggregators don’t focus on the communities but the larger city, state and national news.  With many turning to those aggregators for information- bypassing the newspapers and television – it is that much harder to receive information about local happenings by chance.  In dense American cities and other global locations where public transportation and walking is prevalent, there is a bit more opportunity to come across news and events by chance – whether by seeing signs plastered throughout the city or picking up papers that are left on the Metro or Tube to flip through while commuting.

Radio does sometimes hit on the local events, but more and more people are moving from local radio to mp3 players, satellite radio or certainly replaying the same CD (or 6) in their cars.  NPR stations do a decent job of covering local news and events, but even those stations are having to cover more ground as numbers are shrinking.  In the case of Los Angeles’ KCRW, they are transmitted in other Southern California cities who do not receive their own community news to the extent that LA or Santa Monica news is covered.

Which leads us to online, mobile, apps and social communities.  With any of these, there is usually a bit of “searching out” that does not allow for the quick buzz generation that is needed to bring the subject and events into the larger community that will then lead to “chanced upon” awareness. Certainly, Twitter and Facebook have been highlighted as key  communication tools for drawing crowds – most recently in the political realm of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and others – but those political drivers are not really those community events that are underserved.

While there is a buzz about foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based networking apps, they don’t serve that community need. There is really not a lot that provides community news, event listings and opportunities for chatter based on where you are or where you are going.  Certainly, Facebook and Twitter provide opportunities for social sharing, but to get the information to those users is a bit of a challenge.  In the case of some larger events, the organizers spend a lot of money on traditional advertising like billboards and larger media spends to generate the traffic they need.  With that, it causes the price for community events to go high enough that it limits how much of the community can actually participate.

If there was a reasonable opportunity to provide a “go-to” outlet for local news and event announcements AND also allowed for the social sharing, that could fortify the local community news source.  But again, the challenge is whether people really care and if it is worth the expenditure.  If there were a cost-effective way that could reach a critical mass, it could be worth it.  Some possible solutions could be a digital network of broadcast affiliates or the publisher of local weeklies like Village Voice Media – who publishes New York Village Voice, LA Weekly, SF Weekly, Denver New Times and others – to offer that local community resource pulling on the data they already maintain.  They could certainly aggregate the news, advertising and event listings to handle local outlets nationally.

No matter how you slice it, the ways for local news, events and ideas is becoming more and more diverse and challenging as time goes on.  With money getting tighter, it’s a growing concern whether there will be a discovery resource at all.

Avoid Egg On Your Face – Don’t Underestimate Bloggers

Back in the day – meaning 4 years ago – many people considered bloggers to be hobbyists if they considered bloggers at all.  Now that bloggers are thought of as key to any product release or brand announcement, it is high time for publicists and marketers to not underestimate them.  Without a doubt, there are many who have understood and appreciated who bloggers are and what they bring to the table for years, but this article in the New York Times by Andrew Adam Newman highlights a disconnect. 

Just the title of the article Bloggers Don’t Follow the Script, to ConAgra’s Chagrin brings up a major issue, but we’ll get to that later.  In essence, the article covers how ConAgra’s Marie Callender brand tried to pull one over on food and mom bloggers to announce a new frozen dinner product.  They pitched the event as an exclusive dinner prepared by celebrity chef, George Duran, with a discussion led by food industry analyst, Phil Lempert.  They then set up hidden cameras to capture diners’ (bloggers) responses as they ate the frozen lasagna instead.  It was something we’ve seen before in the Pizza Hut pasta spots showing the same set-up (only with the general public), but the issues aren’t even related to the lack of originality.

Ultimately, ConAgra and their PR agency, Ketchum, had to do a mea culpa due to the adverse affect on some bloggers and even cancelled the fifth of five scheduled nights due to the negative comments on blogs, Twitter and Facebook.  In this case, the comment that “most attendees had a fun evening” with completed surveys indicating that 62.5% had a favorable impression of Marie Callender is grabbing for straws at best. 

The lessons from this are many and varied:

  • First off, when working with bloggers, honesty and trust are key. Don’t pitch “insider” status and then dupe them by making them feel like outsiders.  That was probably the most egregious error.
  • There are far too many bloggers who are educated journalists to think of them as yokels or hobbyists.  Even thinking of Mommy Bloggers as stay at home moms blogging to take up time is completely off-base.
  • If you thought enough of the blogger to invite them to an event, they’ve got to have some influence with their readers – and with that a considerable amount of trust.  To offer any sense less than trust will not bode well for your brand or product.
  • You have to have a very special (hip, cool, highly sought) brand or product to think your product has a chance of being shown in a positive light by bloggers who were duped.  There have been examples of bloggers and key influencers taken for a ride on events surrounding films, technology or hot brands where the reception was positive, but you’ve really got to know that your brand is one of those who can pull it off.
  • Have a realistic expectation of your product and manage the event to highlight your product.  Bloggers understand that it’s all spin and will make their own decisions about the product, but don’t have a pre-meal discussion where topics like healthy eating, fresh foods or aversions to artificial ingredients like this example when you know your product flies in the face of those concerns.
  • Know that if you have a bad experience with the regular public, it’s not the same as when you have one with a blogger.  While you can’t control what a blogger says, let your product do your talking.  Don’t set yourself up to have the blogger talk adversely about something outside of what the product actually is.  And don’t fool yourself that a majority of attendees having fun makes a program a success – unless you only had one attendee.  in this case, there’s probably many less expensive ways to provide “fun” for potential attendees.
  • And finally, if you should run into an issue like this – which is inevitable – be real.  Show that you know your stuff.    Don’t add lies on top of lies by trying to minimize the response to your program.  I usually don’t get pointed on this blog, but I was taken with the comment about the event’s aim from ConAgra’s PR rep – “Our intention was to really have a special evening in a special location with Chef George Duran.” Their intention was to generate buzz about their product by leveraging a celebrity chef and an arguably engaging event.  Again, there’s already a sour taste, don’t ask the offended to clear the taste away with a swig of salt water.

Going back to the title of the article, Bloggers Don’t Follow Script, this really extends how bloggers (and the general public) are misunderstood by publicists and marketers.  We are foolish to think we can dictate how people will act or respond to our brands.  If the script were available, its writer would be immensely wealthy.  All we can do is set up situations where bloggers/consumers/whatever can comfortably be a part of the brand’s or product’s narrative. 

While there is always a modicum of positioning and spin in the traditional publicity and media realm, the new world of bloggers and social media is more challenging to manipulate.  Keep that egg off your face – don’t underestimate bloggers.