Tag Archives: Media

VidCon Teases Keys to Engagement in a Shifting Marketplace

John Green Presenting the VidCon 2015 Industry Opening Keynote

John Green Presenting the VidCon 2015 Industry Opening Keynote

Attending a conference like VidCon can wear a person out – especially if the person is not the predominant target. With the majority of attendees being teens and pre-teens that are exceedingly enthusiastic about the YouTube celebrities, it’s far to easy to overlook what is truly special and energizing about this movement.  Vulture’s Bryan Moylan attempted to do this and, while he did capture some solid elements, they were nowhere near what the reality was in the Anaheim Convention Center. By actually attending VidCon, there are no promises that an older generation will completely “get” what’s going on. But, the sooner everyone realizes that the motivations of the majority generation of VidCon attendees is drastically different than the generations that came before, we’ll be quicker to get into the media innovations that will truly make a difference in the future.

One would think that being a part of the Industry Track – the most expensive entry – would count as being a bona-fide member… The thing is, being away from the groups of Creators and Community meant more than being on a different floor physically – it meant being in a different thought process of why people would want to participate in mediums that are so self-celebratory. Even though John Green (VidCon Co-Founder as well as the writer of Fault In Our Stars and a business partner with his brother, Hank, in starting VidCon as well as a burgeoning video/content industry) mentioned in his Industry Track Opening Keynote that only 18% of their company’s revenues came from advertising revenue, so many of the following tracks allayed the conceit that, somehow, we need to figure out how to work the traditional forms of media into this new phenomenon.

Attending VidCon confirms that the traditional media conceit will absolutely not work among this crowd, nor any crowd/generation beyond it. Certainly, there were numerous speakers that tipped their hat to a need for change in the way big business is done. We all know that it is easier and/or quicker to promulgate change when you are not really a part of big business (yet), but it was disheartening to hear from some brand people about how they needed to break into the content and disrupt the movement that is disrupting the norm. It just isn’t gonna happen.

Vulture’s Moylan does capture some essence from afar as it relates to the community that this community is a part of – one of shared experiences among large crowds that, without the internet and the new mediums, they would have not had the opportunity to connect with. Absolutely, there are chances to expand upon social good and education in addition to entertain. You just can’t overlook what this movement is writing the book on – true audience development.

As long as we keep our way-we’ve-always-done-it hats on, they are all looking to be movie stars. Take those hats off and we see it for what it is – people using a medium to build and foster audiences in ways that couldn’t be done previously. The most important thing to Creators – at first, at least – is gaining and fostering their audience. With relatively basic, YouTube-integrated products, they are more successfully doing what large brands with huge amounts of data and resources aren’t even aware that they need to do.  In the same way that Creators are working exhaustively to build an empire that they have no idea where it will lead them, the Community is looking to support and look up to those who put themselves forward in authentic ways.

Brian Solis of Altimeter put it succinctly when he said that traditional media’s challenge is in, “figuring out Attention Spans and Engagement”.  A huge, flourishing community is already on their way to determining what draws their attention and engages them. We just need to step in the room, stop projecting our beliefs and, just observe. We’ll hopefully get the point soon enough…

Transcending The Pitch And Becoming The Lifestyle

The delineation of Lifestyle Brands as a separate vertical is odd to me.  Its hard to think of “lifestyle brands” that don’t retain a product at its core. Some examples of lifestyle brands – to me – are: Nike, Gatorade, Coca-Cola/Pepsi, and some could argue Apple or Facebook. You could arguably suggest that Livestrong at its height was a lifestyle brand, but its core product was funding and awareness for Cancer research. Perhaps one of the more recent strong transitions to Lifestyle is Dove. Though the Dove brand has been around for a long time with numerous strong campaigns, it has been over the past decade that they have been able to transcend the pitch and become the lifestyle.

What started in 2004 as a way to establish itself in a new market, Brazil, utilizing creative from London, Ogilvy & Mather Brazil’s “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” had a lasting effect that has enabled the brand to create content and community without constantly pitching its products. Perhaps the best part is the fact that the Brazil team launched what seemed to be a local campaign leveraging existing materials that then went on to drive strategy for the brand globally.

RealBeauty

A recent example is their “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” program that has garnered phenomenal viewing metrics.  Rather than describe it, you can check them out yourself, but keep in mind that there is absolutely NO product description. The US 3 minute documentary has garnered over 54 million views on YouTube in just under a month and a half.  The longer 6+ minute version has had 2.6 million US views.  Just the sampling of other markets shows Brazil with another 5.3 million views of the short and 1.6 million views of the longer on YouTube.

Needless to say, the amount of views is of incredible value, but we can’t forget how they got there.  This was certainly not a matter of posting a cool video and just seeing the video completes jump. It was about an almost decade-long investment to build the community with content and programming that helped Dove to become a Lifestyle Brand.

So, with that in mind, the way to think in this technology and media age is how can your brand become “a lifestyle.” It becomes a matter of content strategy, release strategy, Social Media, messaging and campaign strategy. And it could take quite a while.

If done right, it can effectively allow the brand to not even deal with the concerns about brand loyalty. While consumers are becoming more fickle about brands, they are becoming less so about their lifestyles. Red Bull was able to achieve Lifestyle status through their media content and Dove was able to do the same – in large part through their Real Beauty campaign.

So, if marketing product properly and thoughtfully could enable it to transcend product placement and pitching to become a part of life – or lifestyle -, then what constitutes a purely lifestyle brand?

Native Advertising By Any Other Name

While reading an interview in Forbes with former NY Times Editor, Bill Keller, there was a feeling of deja vu – or at least just the feeling we’ve seen this all before.  The interview was wrapped in the blanket of technology and how that’s affected traditional media stalwarts like the NY Times.  One of the lead-off questions related to Native Advertising – the creation and placement of editorial-like content by advertisers on news or editorially driven sites. The thing that’s clear is that Native Advertising is just a catchy new name for something that’s been around forever – it’s just a bit blurrier.

Nielsen Goof

For decades – if not centuries or millennia – content has been pitched for sponsorship. What more recently was considered advertorial – where a company could write content and have it show up in a publication with clear demarkation as advertising – has become easier to pull off and produce within digital media.

This form of advertising through “legitimate” means goes back to patrons of religion, gifts for kings and even the holy of holies, Disney – you didn’t think that the Carnation Cafe is on Main Street just because it fit the them, did you? The problem is that many of the leading digital news outlets and even some traditionals are allowing pure advertising to be pay-for-play while misleading many readers about its origins.

Again, we’ve known this type of thing has gone on forever, but maybe we’ve gotten too lazy about it in the search for bigger dollars.  Maybe we’re OK with changing our ways from selling the advertising surrounding good content to just selling the content – good or bad.

Where there was a clearer delineation between advertising and publicity – with the only correlation was that the more content people read, the more it attracted advertisers.  Now, advertisers are trying to be both sides of the coin and it causes problems that time will tell whether it makes a difference or not.

One of those problems is that it is up to the reader to figure out whether they are reading unbiased news or corporate spin. It might have been easier before, but it is no longer.  Some trade blogs and sites are almost completely populated with thinly veiled advertisements.

The other problem – and one that certainly hits far fewer people – is the way these practices have shifted the very form of publicity. What may have been the challenge of pitching a compelling story that a reporter would cover, shifted first to being included as a value-add to a media spend – and finally to just a matter of having a piece written and receiving paid-placement on a publisher site with little to no editorial involvement. It becomes a problematic when companies feel that they can just post releases on the wire and reporters are waiting at the ready to write about them.

As money becomes harder to come by and the ability to keep commerce and sound reporting separate, opportunity arises for advertisers to benefit.  But, regardless of the name you might want to affix, is Native Advertising the way to go? If history is any proof, it’s the only way it’s ever really been – just a little more shrouded in technology.

Scarlet Strategic At CES 2013 – Showcasing Cloud Based Connectivity Innovation

The buzz surrounding next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is about many things – from the replacement of Microsoft as the Keynote to connected home solutions to the introduction of even larger TVs that may still take a while to make it to market. Scarlet Strategic and Scarlet Terrier Productions are proud to be part of CES through their participation as a contributing member in the ng Connect program.  Of the 12 demos being shown, Scarlet Strategic is involved in two of them that bring connectivity, information and entertainment to public spaces – and best of all, they can be deployed right away.

ngConnect

The ng Connect Program – founded by Alcatel-Lucent – is a multi-industry ‘ecosystem’ dedicated to the creation of the next-generation user experience for connected consumers. The program is comprised of more than 190 member companies, of either Contributing or Associate membership levels, and including leading network, application and content providers and consumer electronics manufacturers.

In Alcatel-Lucent’s booth, South Hall Booth 31412, the demonstration of 12 new cloud-based service concepts created by the ng Connect Program aimed at stimulating application innovation as consumers seek ever more exciting experiences from connected devices like smartphones and tablets.

The two Demos featuring Scarlet Strategic involvement are:

  • MALL WALL – Showcased on the Video Wall
    A large format digital sign that is placed in a mall or public setting. It takes digital signage to the next level of interactivity, allowing shoppers to interact with the sign from their mobile phones. Shoppers can use their NFC enabled phones to scan NFC tags and initiate a session with the Mall Wall. No custom application is needed on the phone, as all phone screens are implemented as HTML5 mobile web pages. The screens can vary in size from what people may be accustomed to for mall maps to huge 120 foot long bilboards (or more) with multiple points of interactivity.  The scope and dynamic scale provided by this offering is what makes it truly stand out.ng Connect Collaborating member(s): Brass Monkey, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions, wCities

    Alcatel-Lucent Highlighted Products:  CloudBand, Velocix, Optism, LTE

  • CLOUD CONNECTED TABLES
    These fully interactive surfaces serve advertising, entertainment, and media in transitional waiting spaces.  They provide a delivery and consumption platform for digital media.  They also provide interactivity via a multitouch screen and smartphones. The tables offer flexible 4G/LTE or wired connectivity.ng Connect Collaborating member(s): Brass Monkey, iGoLogic, wCities, IntuiLab, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions

    Alcatel-Lucent Highlighted Products:  DMS, CloudBand, Velocix, Wi-Fi Offload Products

The partnership opportunities generated by the ng Connect program have been phenomenal in that we are able to bring reality-based connective media platforms to market quickly and effectively.  In the case of both items being demoed, the infrastructure is already in place to enable deployment to high-trafficked venues and the integration of media opportunities that Scarlet Strategic’s clients are actively looking for.

Scarlet Strategic’s involvement in the program and CES 2013 makes perfect sense as we move into an age of connectivity that could have only been dreamed of in the past.

Hey Wendy’s, Where’s The Beef!?

It is now nearly two months after the Wendy’s fast food chain announced that it was updating its branding and environment.  Wendy’s had coverage and articles all over  though they knew they weren’t changing over until March of 2013. Its understandable that changeovers cannot happen with the snap of a finger. But, did they have to make a big bang about it six months ahead of time? Was there a strategy in Wendy’s announce strategy, or has the company responsible for “Where’s The Beef?” let the meat get a little cold?

Wendy's Old and New Logo

Wendy’s Old and New Logo

I am not a Wendy’s fanatic, but I do appreciate a couple of fries dipped in a Frosty drink every once in a while.  With that, I’ve had my eye on any change in marketing or signage to help make a smooth transition from the imagery of the past three decades into the future. Strangely, I’ve seen nothing of the sort and have even seen an on-air media cycle that goes full bore with the old branding.

It might not be a surprise that Wendy’s is still holding on to the past.  Their slogan has always been Old-Fashioned Hamburgers and there is an odd bit of values presentation in the restaurants with Dave Thomas’ image and his signature on posters.  On a side note – I totally respect the use of the deceased founder of the company and the food values under his image – I just find the bizarre facsimile autograph style that insinuates that he has personally signed off on these posters from the grave. But all of this really plays into how much the franchise values its history and old-fashioned ideals AND highlights that it is a big step to go in this new direction.

Wendy’s is missing an opportunity.  Either they missed it by announcing the switch too early, or they’re missing it now by not leveraging existing spends to create anticipation for the forthcoming transition to the new. Hell, they could even be playful and relate it to the atmosphere of most everyone who can’t wait for 2012 to be over and the Economy to grow. Either way, they continue to spend a lot of money on propping up the three-decade-old look of the brand.

I can buy into CEO Emil Brolick’s attempt to modernize the brand and reposition it as a high-end burger joint, but just get on with it.  Any buzz that could have been generated by the press coverage will surely dissipate by March.  If you knew about the March timing, did the announce have to come so soon?  And if it had to come so soon, couldn’t there be smarter awareness programs to bridge the gap?  The worst thing that could come out of this is the redesign of all the restaurants and the change alone not generating excitement that drives sampling.  It would have been a whole lot easier to keep that buzz going by doing any of the things listed above – otherwise, people might not care enough about the beef.

Lacking Vision and Strategy, Everyone Witnessed the Hemmorhaging While Waiting For Others To Act

On the heels of Advertising Week and all of the feel-good excitement it generates, the feeling intensified that there’s too much mis-directed emphasis in digital media.  The reasons for this could be due to digital media’s “youth,” but I’m worried it’s based more on lack of vision or creativity. Far too often, the take-aways from large events or provider presentations are mired in technical/representational capabilities.  The buzz analysis emphasizes media’s reach via platforms, pushes, networks and the like. But reach and placement opportunity is only part of the equation – the thing that’s too often left out of the mix is how they could fit with a brand’s strategy.  No matter how cool the technology is or how many eyeballs are reached, if there’s not a clear plan for how the story connects with the eyeballs emotionally or what the end-user will do with this new-found information, all that advertisers are doing is filling pipeline just because it is there.

Image from Advertising Week 2012
(Courtesy of Hunt Mobile)

While we can focus on any part of the media environment to illustrate this, we can look at mobile. Yesterday I came across two pieces online to help convey the concern – CMO Council’s report on companies’ relationship with Mobile and David Gwozdz’ (CEO of Mojiva – a major global player in mobile advertising) recap of Advertising Week in the Huffington Post.

First off, I really like Mojiva and what they are able to do in the mobile space in many global markets via great targeting and interesting ad formats.  As such, I was interested in Gwozdz’ take on the conference.  Near the top of his recap, he astutely conveys the conference’s permeating message that “technology has to work collaboratively with creative,” but then numbers his top things heard/learned at the conference and all of them relate to mechanics.  They are definitely important, but what is missing are the opportunities to connect creatively and what needs to happen strategically to be able to count mobile as a success.  He does end on the note that what he listed (and the conference in general) was just a first step and I agree.

The concern is that judgements are being made by CMOs and other C-Level executives relating to mobile based on the possibilities, platforms and metrics, but those don’t always relate to any true strategies or even opportunities to genuinely connect in ways that are right for the medium. As with any new medium, it is a challenge to shift people to do things in ways they had not previously. The thing is, we should have learned from our growing pains with the advent of “New Media” years ago.  Everything was mentioned about the mechanics of reaching consumers but it was all in the jargon of other forms of media. Nobody was formulating campaigns to leverage the platform and its capabilities.  In mobile, there is a lot to be learned, but that learning curve will be longer as we try to just fill the hole with something that worked for other platforms.  Again, as we’ve learned with online advertising — not only do the same rules not apply, they keep evolving.

The one thing that can remain consistent regardless of platform is clear and cohesive strategy – which brings us to the report published by the CMO Council.

The survey of  250 companies’ chief marketer found that there is a general struggle with mobile.  Only 8% felt that they had advanced capabilities in the mobile channel.  The thing that struck me is — 26% of the respondents are currently building mobile apps and an extra 17% stated that they have a “good level” of competence in mobile marketing — yet only 16% currently have a mobile strategy in place. Of the 43% delving in mobile, only 16% bothered to devise a strategy first?

Once that caveat was established, it didn’t really matter that 43% of the respondents were unimpressed with their results in mobile or the fact that 69% are most interested in social media ads with 54% hot on paid media in mobile. It’s all irrelevant when there is no real strategy to base it on – it reverts back to the shiny object factor and executives’ chase after the hottest new thing.

This obviously doesn’t just relate to mobile media – it relates to every facet of the marketing puzzle. If companies skimp on the foundation of establishing a strategy and just pay for marketing based on what sounds cool or what is the shiny object du jour, there will certainly be a lot of money wasted.

For the sake of all media – publishers, technology firms, brands, planners and agencies need to step up and fully increase their chops in the strategy and storytelling departments.  It needs to be a collaborative process.  Planners can’t absolve themselves of all creative responsibility. Brands can’t leave it to agencies to fully develop product strategies. Technology firms and publishers can’t figure that clients will easily connect the dots between the ways the shiny object could connect correctly with the consumer. A clear and consistent strategy enables all the parties to up their game and create successful campaigns. That strong strategy also allows others to gain insight into the original vision.

For all players, if you’re not going to formulate a dynamic strategy that energizes the brand, enables those working on it and allows for format flexibility, all you’ll be left with is a bunch of data that doesn’t mean much and even more opportunity (costs/revenue) flowing out the door.

While it sort of makes sense for publishers and technologists to emphasize mechanics, the lack of marketing vision creates an obstacle that doesn’t need to be there. It places too much burden on the clients to figure out how the platform helps them. Conversely, marketers need to build the marketing and media strategy that provide the vision to immediately determine whether a technology or platform works or not.  If they don’t fit your strategy, there’s no easier way to move along until you find just the right platform for connecting with your consumers.

Until the emphasis on strategy and the vision it helps to convey becomes commonplace within companies of all kinds, resources will continue to be hemmorhaged with diminishing chances for ROI.

NBC News’ Confusing Destruction of Demographics

I’ve been quite bullish on the need to move away from straight demographics in marketing and media from some time.  And I haven’t been alone.  We see in research that a person’s age or sex isn’t always the best marker of what the consumer is interested in.  Even some products that historically might have been limited to a demo or sex are seeing a bit of change.  One example of that is where we are seeing more stay-at-home fathers who are responsible for buying the diapers – and they’re not into the same programming that a mother might be into.  I understand that the example is nowhere close to becoming a norm, but it illustrates the point. What concerns me more than the slow move to affinity marketing from demographic marketing is the opportunity for publishers to bring bogus solutions to market that only make the transition messier. The latest affront can be found in a MediaPost exclusive with NBC News Digital’s confusing move towards a “Persona” structure that seems even worse than straight demographics.

Before getting into the details of NBC’s move, its important to point out that the shift from affinity to demographic sales from a publisher prospective might not be such an easy thing.  Even if a publisher perfectly hits a demographic segment, we know that not everyone in that segment is interested in all things exactly the same.  As data and algorithms are refined, there will be ways to define the buckets and deliver to them more easily.  But, at this time, the easier way to target may well be through smart social media targeting. And traditional publishers shouldn’t be too far behind – unless they go in the wrong direction.

Which brings us to NBC News.  Their direction is confounding.  Instead of breaking down their affinity into what their users are specifically are interested in, they are effectively playing off of how much their users are interested in. Instead of Demographics, they want to move to Persona.  That’s great if they want to hit those who are more interested in more granular buckets like political, entertainment, sports, local and more.  But they are basing their four buckets on how much news they read.  From the description, they don’t glean much about the individuals based on these segments ranging from avid digital news readers to spotty or traditional news consumers:

  • “Always On:” Consumers who are constantly connected to news feeds across  multiple devices throughout their waking day.
  • “Reporters:” A slightly smaller segment of “digital natives” who grew up  consuming news via online and mobile media, and who have manifested the behaviors of news disseminators, taking pride in their ability to break  important news to their friends via their own social media postings.
  • “Skimmers:” Consumers who are not passionately connected to news.
  • “Veterans:” Consumers who primarily rely on traditional media as a trusted  source for news.

NBC News Digital will be focusing on the first two Personas, but as a media buyer, I really don’t have an idea about what any of those groups are interested in.  I understand that the “Reporters” might be most likely to share news information with friends, but does that mean that they care about what branding comes along with it? Do the CPMs I pay mean more when it reaches “Always On” readers more because there is the assumption that there are more impressions? Or is it worth less because those readers may be much more adept at tuning out the ads those who are not always checking online for the latest news?

Perhaps the solution for the latter issue is based on sponsorship opportunities.  But, such an engagement is even more challenging in the news environment due to the accepted separation of editorial and advertising.

I couldn’t find much more information about the program – other than MediaPost’s piece on it, so I don’t know what NBC is looking to do. Sadly, it looks like NBC may have garnered a headline, but ended up diminishing its proposition because there wasn’t enough within the article or supporting it.  With the input the group has from research teams and other organizations, I’m hopeful that there is more sense to this than can currently be seen. Otherwise, it is just another in a long line of curious announcements that miss the especially engaging aspects of digital media and flattens them almost to incomprehension.

At the speed in which we are moving forward and the challenges of selling in concepts and practices to clients and management in that same expedited time, we collectively need to be thinking more clearly about the products and measurements we introduce. Decision makers are too quick to pass judgement that it still causes many to shake their head when half-baked or confusing concepts are presented to the marketplace. The true shift from media planning for demographics to affinity needs to happen – and can happen – but we can’t be placing obstacles in our own path.