Learning From A Splendid Failure

7 Mar

Uh oh... Oscar took a little tumble this year...

The 2011 Oscars:  Let’s call them a splendid failure for 2 reasons:

1.  I didn’t even get to watch the show! I was away for a conference and the hotel’s cable was out… when I called to express my dismay at missing my favorite awards show, the concierge apologized for the hotel’s ‘incompetent cable.’ At least I got a little laugh out of the situation.  Thank goodness for the Internet…

2.  And the ratings? Not quite as ‘Oscar worthy’ as I predicted.  Instead of seeing an increase in ratings, the ratings for the 2011 show fell 10% from the 2010 awards show.

Let’s look at my original predictions and see what we can learn from this failure:

Continue reading


Oscar Worthy

25 Feb

And the Oscar goes to…

The Ratings!

My predictions for the 2011 Academy Awards: Ratings will increase at least 10%, driven by an increase in young viewers (P18-49).

And here’s why that will happen:

1. Ten Best Picture Nominees: The Academy upped the number of nominees for Best Picture from 5 to 10 in 2010, and continued the trend for the 2011 show.   Why do I think this is important? Relatability.  Here’s one of my simple ideas: I think the majority of the population wants to know what’s going on- if they haven’t seen (or even heard of) the films nominated, they aren’t going to be all that interested in watching.  People want to root for their favorites– to say ‘I loved that movie, too!’ By expanding the best picture nominees from 5 to 10 films, there’s room for the ‘blockbusters’ the average Joe has seen that may have been previously excluded from consideration.

And this year there are plenty of ‘blockbusters’ for the everyman to root for during the Awards show- which hasn’t been the case in past years.  Let’s take a look: This year, 5 of the 10 the nominees (and coincidentally as well in 2010) grossed/have grossed as of late February over $100M in box office sales, whereas in 2009, only 2 of the 5 nominees grossed over $100M and in 2008, only 1 of the 5 nominees reached the $100M mark.  That’s not to say that a less ‘successful’ nominee (by box office standards) can’t win- last year’s Best Picture winner, the Hurt Locker, only grossed $17M in theaters.  But rounding out the nominees in 2010 were films like Avatar (grossing roughly $750M), The Blind Side (~$256M), and Up! (~$293.)  You’d be hard pressed to find any average Joe who didn’t know/see at least one of the films- and the box office numbers prove it.

This year’s nominees haven’t grossed quite as much as Avatar, but big names like The Social Network, Toy Story 3, and Black Swan are all on the list for Best Picture… as are less ‘blockbuster’ films: 127 Hours ($18M), The Kids Are All Right ($21M), and Winter’s Bone ($6M).

Everyone has something to root for! Relatability.

My prediction: Natalie Portman continues her ‘Best Actress’ Awards show streak and wins again for Black Swan; The King’s Speech or The Social Network win for Best Picture.

2. Fresh New Hosts- Anne Hathaway and James Franco are hosting the Oscars for the first time- she’s only 28, he’s 32.  Last year’s hosts? Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, average age between the two: 58.5.  The hosting average age just dropped by 28.5 years! Now I love Steve Martin (Alec Baldwin… meh), and I know older generations love him from his SNL days, but I think the younger generation most readily sees him as a white haired gentleman who was a wonderful dad in the Father of the Bride films or Cheaper by the Dozen franchise. And the key word here?: Dad. I think going with younger hosts is a good idea- if you’re trying to speak to the younger generation, speak to them in their language.  Hathaway and Franco fit the bill for the younger generation-both were in recent movies, graced magazine covers, and made headlines this year- but are also among the smartest and most poised of their generation of actors.  Hiring these two was a smart choice by the Academy- hiring someone like Robert Pattinson, Miley Cyrus, or Justin Bieber may have attracted younger viewers, but most certainly would have turned off older vieweres. I think Hathaway and Franco have both the youth and poise to appeal to a broader demographic and bring a little refined fun to the show.

And please, don’t even tell me you didn’t like Hathaway’s opening with Hugh Jackman for the 2009 Academy Awards:

Other hosting choices I would have enjoyed watching: Conan.  He’s had a pretty big year this year and could draw on his massive, engaged fan base to draw attention to the Awards show.  Plus, he’s hilarious.  Tina Fey. A bit older, but in my opinion, the funniest lady on TV/in movies these days.

3. The ‘You’re Invited Campaign’ and a big push for Interactive, Muliplatform viewing– On the Oscar.com website: “You’re invited to the 83rd Academy Awards and this invitation is like no other. Celebrate Hollywood’s biggest night with unprecedented access that even the winners won’t have. With exclusive backstage cameras, you’ll go where few have ever been and walk and mingle among the stars.”  And how will viewers get this access? On the Web through multiple outlets (Oscar.com, People, E!…) and on their iPads, iPhones, and iPods.  Viewers can manipulate camera angles on the red carpet, follow actors backstage after winning their Award, and for a nominal fee, can go into dressing rooms and inside the Governor’s Ball. Ah, cue the fascination with Hollywood and wanting to find out ‘what really goes on’ behind the scenes.

And don’t forget about social media– fans can check in/vote/share their with their friends through Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.  Oscar.com will also run a live feed of nominees’ tweets.  We’ve seen how the use of social media can boost ratings- especially with live events.  Take the 2010 VMAs for example- “During the show, 2.3 million tweets came in and 11.4 million viewers tuned in, almost double the 2006 low and up 27% from 2009. In fact, it was the VMA’s best showing since 2002” (fastcompany)  And Stuart Elliott of the NYTimes writes, “The ability of viewers to discuss with one another in real time what they see taking place on the field or the red carpet is being credited with increasing the audiences for several live programs, among them Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, which was the most-watched TV show ever; the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13, with the best ratings since 2000; and the N.B.A. All-Star Game last Sunday, which drew the highest ratings since 2003.” (NYTimes)

And I know it’s an assumption, but if the majority of live shows this year have seen an increase in ratings- and attribute them to social media- then why will the Oscars be different?  Especially since they’re making a mammoth push for viewer interaction and inclusion.

The Academy’s invitation and inclusion of viewers on multiple platforms= smart move.  Viewers want the inside scoop on Hollywood– take the popularity of magazines like People and US Weekly for example- and the Academy is not only giving viewers the inside scoop, they are giving them the scoop in real time- and interacting with viewers.

So there you have it: my predictions for the 2011 Oscars… a ratings win for young viewers.  Relatability and inclusion are the key for why I think ratings will increase at least 10%: more blockbuster films on the docket, fresh young hosts, and a focus on interactivity and multiplatform engagement all equal relatability and inclusion of key young viewers.

Leave your predictions and I’ll recap how we all did next week!

**All box office data from Boxofficemojo.com

**For perspective: I consider myself an average Joe.

“Sorry, I’m Not on Facebook”

21 Feb

‘Sorry, I’m Not on Facebook: The Reality Show’

Scene: A busy New York City street during the evening rush hour

Cast of Characters: JustAllie and her co-worker C; millions of busy New Yorkers rushing from here to there; an old friend

‘Sorry, I’m Not on Facebook’:

C and JustAllie, engrossed in conversation, are walking down a busy Manhattan street when C suddenly looks up and starts shouting ‘Hey! Hey Man!’ to one of the countless New York commuters passing by on the street.  C stops mid stride and turns to walk towards one of the passerbys as he  continues to enthusiastically shout ‘hello!’ to him.  {JustAllie stands awkwardly to the side, paused in confusion}.  The man slowly turns around, a look of annoyance and confusion clearly written across his face.  As he turns towards C, his unpleasant look turns to one of recognition and  pleasant surprise, and his face breaks into a wide grin as he recognizes C.

The random commuter C has decided to shout at is not in fact, a random stranger, but an old colleague and friend of C.  The two exchange pleasantries and catch up on each other’s lives since they last saw each other- was it the concert two years ago or that mutual friend’s wedding three years ago?  The chit chat continues for a few minutes until the old friend glances at his watch and exclaims that he is going to miss his train if he doesn’t get going.  He says he’s loved running into C and suggests they grab a beer sometime, and asks C for his information.  C checks his briefcase and wallet for a business card, as does the friend.  Neither can find one, so C says- don’t worry I’ll find you on Facebook.  The friend looks at him and says, Sorry, I’m not on Facebook- what’s your number?’

They shake hands and C and JustAllie continue walking one way while the friend heads the other way, both parties rejoining the countless other New York commuters eager to arrive at their evening destinations.  C and JustAllie pick up their conversation from pre-friend run-in, but JustAllie is distracted… she’s ruminating on the idea that C’s friend- who, by any outworldly observation, is a successful New York businessman with basic social skills (and not some guy living under a technology rock)…  still isn’t on Facebook.

End Scene: C and JustAllie go their separate ways, and we’re left with JustAllie standing at an intersection with a dumbfounded look on her face.  Cabs and pedestrians whiz by as if in super-sonic speed while JustAllie seems to be stuck in slow motion.  The camera comes in for a close up, and we see JustAllie mouthing the words, Sorry, I’m not on Facebook?’ while slowing shaking her head in disbelief and confusion.

To Be Continued…

Get MTV on the phone, stat! This reality show is sure to be an instant hit (and so much better than Skins).  The intrigue, the drama, the suspense! How can this man socialize without social networks? Will he ever join Facebook? Can C and JustAllie reconnect with other friends outside of using their social networks, or was this just one random occurrence?   If this man isn’t on Facebook, is he on Twitter?  How does he survive not knowing his Klout score, and even more shocking- how could C and JustAllie even deem to talk to him not knowing his Klout score?

<now go back and read that last paragraph again- but this time, make sure it’s with lots and lots of sarcasm>

It’s hard not to get caught up in theI love social media- and everybody’s doing it- bubble.’ The stats alone are staggering- in 2010, Facebook was the most visited website in 2010, (Hitwise) 1 out of every 8 minutes online were spent on Facebook, (Comscore) and  100 million new users signed up for Twitter (Twitter).  In 2010 in the US, 9 out of every 10 Internet users visited a social networking site each month, and time spent on social networking sites accounted for 14.4% of Americans’ (aged 15+) total online time. (Comscore)

While I think we’d be fools to say that social media sites don’t offer a valuable conversation platform (for both individuals and companies), I think it’s important every now and then to take a deep breath, step back ,and detach ourselves from the ‘I love social media bubble. <And I say this as a huge advocate of social networks>.

What about the 1 out of every 10 Internet users that don’t visit a social networking site each month?  Are they any less ‘social‘ because they don’t have 600 friends on Facebook, or any less ‘influential‘ because they don’t have a Klout score of 70+?  And what about that 85.6% of time that wasn’t spent on social networking sites– was this time any less ‘social‘?  Or what about the time that wasn’t spent online at all– was there any ‘social networking‘ happening then?

‘Social networking’ isn’t new, and the first social ‘network’ started long before the Internet was born.  But as the adoption of technology has changed how we live our lives (from play, to work, to education, to socializing…), the concept of ‘social networking’ has also evolved, making way for these online ‘social’ platforms to become a part of our ‘personal/business/political/advertising/etc. conversations.

We’ve seen how social networks can be a powerful tool in our personal/business/political/etc conversations- one example that immediately comes to mind: the recent Egyptian revolt.  Did the use of social networks start the uprising in Egypt? No.  Did social media play a role in mobilizing and  accelerating cohesive action? Yes, I believe so.

But the protesters in Egypt- were they sitting at home, on the computer, posting status updates or tweeting about the revolution? Were they worried about how many ‘fans’ they had on their ‘Down with Mubarak’ Facebook group page? Did they care how the revolution was affecting their Klout score on Twitter? Or were they out being social, and being part of a network: protesting in the streets?

Yes, online social networking platforms can be very powerful tools- but stepping outside of the ‘I love social media bubble’, we can’t forget that relationships exist offline, and it’s what happens both on and offline that create the entire social/political/business/advertising/etc conversation.  ‘Social media’ is just one piece of the pie, as is bumping into someone on the street– and every interaction that we have, both on and offline, defines the complete conversation.

While the stats behind social networking sites are staggering, and there is no denying that social media is and will continue to be a part of the <social/business/political/advertising/etc.> conversation, I think we need to remember two things about social media: 1) in the long run, the basic premise behind social media is to provide a platform for people to interact and connect with each other, and these connections should be enhancing the overall conversation, not distracting from it and 2) there’s a large portion of the population that mostly or only socialize outside of social media networks.

So take a deep breath and step away from the ‘social media’ bubble for a minute- are you really connecting with others online? Are your interactions/connections on social networks enhancing the overall conversation or detracting from it?  Does it really matter what your Klout score on Twitter is, or what your ‘friend count’ is on Facebook?  In the end, I think it all boils down to the act of being social- being part of the conversation— and you can be social and be a part of the conversation without participating in ‘social networks.’ And remembering that participating in social networks could actually hurt your conversations if you live only inside of the bubble– for example, if Egyptians had only tweeted about the government, nothing would have happened.  It was the action outside of the social media network that really mattered.  It’s a balancing act- online social networking platforms can only work in tandem with offline social networking platforms.  Don’t become so ‘social’ in the social media bubble that you forget the importance of being ‘social’ offline!

And don’t forget to look up from time to time while you’re walking down a busy street- you don’t want to miss the social networking opportunities!

(I was going to make an awful joke about social networking platforms and the subway platform being one of these social platforms, but I refrained so you’d revisit JustAllie :))

All I Really Need to Know I learned from… Dr. Seuss

15 Feb

Putting on my child sized thinking cap!

That Dr. Seuss, what a character!   Shoot- he wasn’t even a real doctor…and he certainly wasn’t some highfalutin business consultant.

Nope, Dr. Seuss is best known as a children’s book writer who had a flair for the imaginative and nonsensical: the man who gave readers fantasy lands filled with characters like a Grinch [who learns that Christmas is more than gifts], the [eco-conscious] Lorax, and [a book loving] Cat who wears a Hat.

Hmm… maybe Dr. Seuss’ world wasn’t so nonsensical after all.  He was, after all, able to get his viewpoint across on some pretty complex/pressing issues.  The imaginative/fanciful part was in his approach- he was able to break down the complex issues in such a way that even the smallest child could both delight in the story and comprehend, on a basic level, that there is more to Christmas than presents, that we need to protect our natural resources, and that reading can be fun.  But the real magic, in my opinion? Seuss didn’t trivialize the issues with his approach- the messages in the books also resonated with the adults reading the children the stories.  (I’m reminded of some present day Pixar films that approach issues in the same way- Wall-E anyone?)

Maybe it’s just my overly idealistic nature, but I think Dr. Seuss was on to something- what if we approached business problems [or really any problem] through the eyes of an innocent child?  Could we perhaps gain some clarity/insight into how to best tackle business problems if we were forced to take a step back and simplify these problems/our resulting solutions to such a level that a 5 yr old could understand?

A few Dr. Suess-isms I really love, and wish were more widely practiced in the business world:

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

What kind of crazy person thinks left? Or really says what they mean all the time?  A child. Children aren’t afraid to imagine, [think outside of the box in business jargon] say what’s really on their minds, [uninhibited brainstorming for grownups] or question others when they don’t understand or have a different opinion [daring groupthink and the popular opinion at the office].

But when was the last time you thought left at the office?  What if we forced ourselves to think like children- with uninhibited creativity and curiosity?   What’s the worst that could happen?  We have to explain to our co-workers why we proposed something a little different?

Here’s where thinking with the simplicity of a child could really come in handy– we could break down the reasoning behind the new/different idea to a very basic level– which will do two things: ensure that we know the intricacies of what we’re proposing inside and out, and ensure that our co-workers have the best possible chance of understanding our proposal.

And really, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  Rejection?  As long as you approach the situation, and all parties involved with respect, there’s still a silver lining to rejection.  You opened yourself up to new possibilities- and the more you’re willing to ‘think left’ the more you’ll be able to come up with new/different ideas that are actually workable.

And I say this from experience.  If you’ve read any of my other posts (or even just my bio), you’ll know I’m a researcher.  But I write about my ideas for advertising, namely for television shows- promoting a show through a group buying platform, asking fans to create their own show promos with Xtranormal, and redefining what it means to be a member of a ‘street team.’  Have any of these ideas come to fruition? NO.  But have I ‘thought left‘ and proposed them to anyone who will listen? YES. Have I learned from these experiences and have my pitches become better? I’d like to think YES.

And drumroll please… will I soon be tweeting/blogging/shouting from the rooftops about an upcoming promotion that can be partially attributed to me? YES 🙂

Share your  ‘think left’ moments!

**Showing my love for the ‘We Love Bloggers Contest‘- show yours- what have you learned from children?**

Sensational Superbowl: Groupon Gets Offensive

8 Feb




1. Producing or designed to produce a startling effect, strong reaction, intense interest, etc., especially by exaggerated, superficial, or lurid elements: a sensational novel.

The Superbowl this year was a bit… sensational.  And by the Superbowl I mean everything surrounding the football game, not the football game itself. (That part I could honestly care less about) Christina Aguilera kicked things off with a bang by forgetting the lyrics to our national anthem, I made some out-of-this-world-slap-your-mama good nutella cupcakes, and oh… Groupon got offensive.

Oh yeah, all in all a pretty sensational Superbowl.

But let’s talk more about the real eye opener-  my cupcakes Groupon’s foray into TV advertising.  Just in case you haven’t seen the Superbowl spot that’s generating all the buzz, here it is:

Sensational. Downright offensive. And [just too damn] cocky.

Cocky? Because as it turns out, the ads were meant for good (say what?!)… and cocky because Groupon expected viewers to understand that they were poking fun of themselves, not Tibet… from 30 seconds that was void of any mention of charitable intentions. Hey Groupon, here’s a little lesson from advertising 101: You can’t assume the consumers know anything about your company/product/service going into watching your commercial.  What they see is what they get, so you need to ask yourself: is my message clear for my consumers?  Or is this ad just sensational?

I’m not sure Groupon asked themselves that question (is my message clear), and I’m not sure they even care, given this cocky response on their blog:

“We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at SaveTheMoney.org. Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.

When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them – they have the opposite effect.

The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they created this Hulu ad, they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu. Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Why make fun of ourselves? Because it’s different – ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?

We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes.”

(Read the full blog post here)

Ah, the distaste just keeps growing, Groupon.  Not only do I feel that you’re trying to make me feel stupid for not understanding your tongue-in-cheek approach in the first place, (since it was soo clearrlly obvious that as a company with a history of charitable donations you would only have the purest of intentions…) you’ve also managed to use your agency as a scape goat  (ohhh but this is the agency’s thing- ‘they draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands…’) while clearing yourself of any wrong whatsoever (“what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?”).

News flash, Groupon. Your ad bombed. I get it- you’re known for being an ‘offbeat’ and a generally ‘tongue-in-cheek’ company. (I mean, who expected you to turn down $6 billion from Google?) But you have to use some common sense!  You can be tongue-in-cheek and not be offensive (in fact, your competitor Living Social did it quite well)– but you, Groupon, you just had a bad ad. Period.  A general rule of advertising: If you have to explain the punch line/message to the consumer, you didn’t do a good job- regardless if the ad is funny/sentimental/quirky, etc. It’s just plain advertising 101: consumers need to understand the message.

Another news flash- yes, Crispin is known for creating ‘sensational’ campaigns- they created the tongue-in-cheek Hulu campaign mentioned in your blog as well as the recent Dominos ‘turnaround’ campaign. But the difference between these ads and yours?  Hulu pokes fun at TV- it’s a video watching platform and Dominos criticizes it’s own pizza.  You poke fun of an entire country’s ‘very culture!’ See my point?  The other campaigns only featured themselves- the consumer couldn’t be confused as to what Hulu was making fun of or what Dominos was criticizing.  With your campaign and the addition of a 3rd party (or should I say country),  there is opportunity for the consumer to be confused as to who/what is the brunt of the joke.  And I think it’s pretty clear given the response to the ads and your quick reformatting of the ads that most consumers were confused.

So, the point? Sensationalism alone can’t sell a product.  Advertisers need to follow some basic 101 logic: is the message clear to consumers?  And Groupon, your message was for viewers to support various charitable causes, which was completely lost given your approach.  So while I applaud you for trying something new and for staying true to the quirky nature of your company, I think you got way too wrapped up in the ‘trying to be different’ approach to think about the campaign objectively.  It’s time you went to advertising/common sense 101 and gave us a real apology.

A New Type of Street Team

1 Feb

Can we use social media to redefine a b(r)and’s ‘street team?’

Street Team: A dedicated fan of a band (or brand) who decides, by simple virtue of liking a band (or brand), that they will take it upon themselves to help promote their favorite band (or brand)… for free or minimal return.  A member of a street team could promote a band (or brand)by distributing promotional materials , tacking up fliers to promote an upcoming show, call radio stations to request songs by their favorite band, post to online message boards, etc… and in return? Eh, maybe some free swag or early access to ticket sales…basically nothing compared to the virtually free promotion/advertising (and largely in the trusted word-of-mouth advertising form at that!)  by your biggest band (or brand) advocates.

Sweet deal for the band (or brand), right?

And why would a fan want to be a member of a ‘street team?’   Because they want to feel like they’re a part of something.  Because the (minimal) return- say, a sweatshirt exclusively available to members of the street team- is an exciting and rewarding incentive.  Because they just love the band (or brand).

What if we tweaked the idea of a ‘street team’ by asking our tried and true, loyal brand advocates to be our ‘street team’… instead of waiting for these fans to come to us?

Social media makes it extremely easy for a brand to identify their most loyal and dedicated fans- so why not ask these fans, who are already talking about your brand just because they love it , to help you out with promotions/advertising? Here’s a golden opportunity for a brand to connect with fans and  show them they’re appreciated…. and here’s the opportunity to create a new kind of street team.

So what do we need to create this new street team from social media fans?

DATA! Don’t run away yet- you’ll be shocked at just how simple (and inexpensive) it is to get information about a brand’s fans on social media sites.  Two examples of extremely easy tools:

1. Rowfeeder: lets you  ‘track Tweets and Facebook posts in a spreadsheet… We provide raw data, with no bells and whistles, in a format that fits existing workflows – spreadsheets’ (via crunchbase)

Ok, thanks for the data, but how is it useful? A company can look at trending of posts/tweets–> are there a few fans/twitterers who mention the brand over and over in a positive manner?  Also included in the data- information the fan/twitterer has already provided about themselves (twitter bio, etc)- a brand can see if these loyal fans/twitterers have personal blogs, how many followers they have… IE how large of a network they’re reaching with every Facebook post or tweet.

And the cost? Free for tracking one term, $35 a month for tracking up to 3 terms and 5,000 comments/tweets.  And the most premium package listed on Rowfeeder‘s site? $255 a month for up to 10 terms and 50,000 comments/tweets. Wowzers.  That’s a lot of valuable data for not a lot of cash.

2.  Topsy: ‘indexes and ranks search results based upon the most influential conversations millions of people are having every day about each specific term, topic, page or domain queried…Topsy displays realtime results for related terms & articles, trending topics, identifies experts (influencers) for any queried term and shows you trackback pages for everything in its index, displaying what everyone is saying about that query. (via Topsy about us page) a

Ok, there’s the data. Tell me why I should care. The results are in realtime, and Topsy not only lists tweets about the search term, the site also lists results from all over the web.  The most useful information (for my current purposes) is the ‘expert’ information, a listing of everyone who has tweeted the search term, with a count of how many times they’ve tweeted that search term.

And the cost? Free as far as I can tell.

(And that’s just two of the simple, inexpensive social media analytic tools available for anyone to use)

So now that we know how to get information about who mentions a brand/tweets about a brand, etc, what do we do with it?  How can we create a new ‘street team’ from this information set?

Let’s say a cable channel wanted to amp up promotion for the return of a popular series. The channel thinks that by reaching out to fans and by asking them to tweet about the show, post comments to their facebook page, or even blog about the show, they can increase the reach of their promotion efforts.  And by employing the fans who are already mentioning/tweeting about their love of the show/channel- the cable channel can simultaneously say ‘thank you’ to these loyal fans and ’employ’ them to continue to keep spreading positive sentiment about the show/channel.

To start, the cable channel used one of the tools listed above (or both, or multiple other ones) to identify their loyal fans. All they did was type in a key search phrase- the name of the show, or a popular character on the show, or even just the name of the cable channel itself, and track the data for a few days.  Once the cable channel had an adequate sample size, they analyzed the data to see which fans/twitterers had been the most active around the search term.

After taking out comments from ‘verified’ accounts, (for example, FOX wouldn’t want to count the @gleeonfox twitter account as a brand advocate as the account is a corporate, and not personal account) the cable channel identified a handle of users who were frequent (and positive!) mentioners of the search term.

Now that the cable channel has identified a collection of loyal fans, let’s turn these fans into our new ‘street team:’

First, the channel should immediately thank these fans for being such loyal devotees of the channel/show!  The channel could send these fans a message/send them schwag from their favorite show/anything to show these fans they care!  And to get these fans to become the new ‘street team’ and get them to help promote the returning series? The cable channel could send the fans an advance preview tape of the premiere episode and ask them to tweet about it, ask the fans to attend a press screening and tweet/blog about the experience, have a few fans do an interview with the stars of the show and post the interview to the web…

Are you noticing a trend with the possibilities for the new street team? Advance preview tapes, special screenings, exclusive interviews… hmm… all activities traditionally reserved for the ‘press.’  And the point of these efforts?  To get the show featured on the ‘what to watch this week section’ of the newspaper, for Matt & Meredith to talk about the show on the Today show, to have pictures of the  show’s stars in the next issue of People magazine.  And while these (and other) traditional outlets are still very important in a show’s promotion, why not give loyal fans the same opportunity?

What do you think- can companies/brands ’employ’ these already loyal fans on social media sites as a new type of ‘street team? ‘

Explicity Implicit ‘Skins’

25 Jan

To borrow a quote from my favorite movie,

‘If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… [advertising] actually is all around’- Love Actually, 2003

And to rephrase that quote, ‘I’ve got a suspicion… that advertising actually is all around and sneaky.’ Yes, advertising is a sly, sly business- and all around us.  It’s easy to recognize explicit advertising/promotions- the TV commercial, the outdoor billboard, the print ad- that give consumers a clear call to action to buy a product/service.   But it’s a little harder to recognize  advertising/promotions that rely on implicit messaging- your favorite celebrity ‘candidly’ photographed wearing a popular brand of jeans or a Mac being used by the ‘cool kid’ in a movie- the advertising message is implied- buy these jeans and look like this celebrity, buy this computer and you’ll be cool- but not directly expressed.

In a previous post, I wrote that a purchase decision is a matter of need and want– which are personal and emotional decisions.  Advertisers are tasked with finding a way to tap into these personal/emotional purchase decision rationales, and to be a little cliche, it’s sometimes what they don’t say, but rather what they do that ‘sticks’ best with consumers.

Or to be even more cliche, it’s often the non-verbal (implicit) communication that speaks more loudly to consumers than verbal (explicit) communication.

Which begs a larger question- who is in the business of advertising and who is responsible for messaging sent to consumers?  Similar to the relative ease at recognizing explicit advertising, execs on Madison Avenue are clearly in the business of advertising- and responsible for the explicit advertising messages they send to consumers.  But who exactly is responsible for implicit advertising messages? Just Madison Avenue execs, or say, anyone who creates content and directs a message to a consumer?

Can a TV show’s content also be a form of advertising?

Just watch the promo for MTV’s new show Skins:

Hmm. This is a promo for a TV show (looking at the promo as a proxy for the show’s content)- no advertisers are sending explicit messages to minors to buy/partake in alcohol/drug use, but there’s a hellalot of implicit messaging from MTV going on in that 45 second clip.

Advertising really is all around… sneaky.

Take a look at the regulations regarding explicit alcohol advertising to minors:

‘Beverage alcohol products should not be advertised or marketed in any manner directed or primarily appealing to persons below the legal purchase age…Beverage alcohol advertising and marketing should be placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print, and internet/
digital communications only where at least 70 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be above the legal purchase age (determined by using reliable, up to-date audience composition data)…Beverage alcohol products should not be advertised or promoted by any person who is below the legal purchase age or who is made to appear to be below the legal purchase age. To help ensure that individuals in beverage alcohol advertising are and appear to be above the legal purchase age, models and actors employed should be a minimum of 25 years old, substantiated by proper identification and should reasonably appear to be 21 years of age and older.’

(from the Distilled Spirits Council Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing, 2009)

Although this promo for Skins is not an explicit ‘advertisement’ for alcohol consumption/sales, the promo [show] does implicity promote underage drinking and alcohol use.  Looking at the regulations pertaining to alcohol advertising, this promo alone (can you imagine the actual show?) breaks several regulations.

Should implicit advertising/content like this be held to the same standards as explicit advertising?

I certainly don’t have the (professional or end-all-to-be-all) answer to this question, but I will say that I personally think implicit advertising should be held to the same standards as explicit advertising.  I may be opening up a can of worms with my definition of ‘advertising’ and the notion that ‘advertising is all around,’ but I think as advertisers (in the traditional sense) adapt to changing consumer behaviors/consumer touchpoints with new advertising methods, we’re going to have to keep a close eye on standards and regulations.  And that goes for implicit advertisers too and other content creators– after all, we’re all in the business of personal branding.  You hold yourself to some sort of standard, right? Shouldn’t content creators/advertisers?

Your thoughts on explicit vs. implicit advertising?

Creative Musings

17 Jan

A recent article in FastCompany (have I mentioned I’m obsessed with this magazine) caught my eye and sparked a little creative thinking:

Inside Xtranormal‘s Budding Do-It-Yourself Movie Empire:

‘Xtranormal puts simple tools at the disposal of regular people. Choose from a selection of several dozen characters. Enter text (profane or otherwise) for your characters (bears or otherwise) to act out. Set your camera angle. Sprinkle in sound effects. Presto! You have your own mini-movie, ready for its online premiere… the company’s original goal was to produce an application to give film studios a storyboarding tool during preproduction. Hollywood loved the idea, but the animation and controls were too basic. Not true for the do-it-yourself crowd… revenue now comes from selling special characters and sets to users. While the company has yet to make a profit, [Xtranormal] anticipates getting into the black during the first half of 2011. With plans to go mobile and allow for collaboration over social networks, the challenge for [Xtranorma] will be to keep things simple while giving Joe Public more options to unleash his inner Tarantino.’

Read the full FastCompany article here.

And Spark!: my creative juices start flowing and the ‘what ifs’ just won’t stop…

What if… a cable channel used this ‘make your own movie’ site for a viewer ‘create your own promo’ contest?  The cable channel would invite viewers to create their own promo for a popular show with Xtranormal’s tools, and then the cable channel would pick the best promo (or few) to run on air.  Xtranormal’s revenue ‘now comes from selling special characters and sets to users’ (FastCompany)– so what if revenue came from creating customized characters/sets/sounds/actions/etc for the cable channel’s promotion?

Brainstorming this idea:

Situation: A cable channel is set to premiere a new season of a popular show (or a high profile special) and wants the  show/special’s promotional mix to include social media.  The channel thinks leveraging fans through social media would be a good way to connect with viewers and to spread the word about the show.  The channel has seen competitors embrace social networks to increase viewer engagement and knows it needs to amp up previous efforts in order to really make a splash with this new show/special.  They’ve been looking at some recent examples of how other cable channels are engaging viewers (just 2 among many, many others):

1. Bravo’s championship of Twitter and it’s creation of @BravoTV, ‘a real-time social media experience and interactive site where fans can engage with each other 24/7 about their favorite Bravo shows and Bravolebrities.’ (via FutonCritic)

2. Starz launch of the Facebook game ‘Spartacus: Gods of the Arena’ to the first 10,000 fans to sign up, a few weeks earlier than the show’s linear premiere to ramp up interest in the new show and to ‘[c]ater to fans’ growing belief that a TV show should live on in other forms of media’ (via Mashable)

The cable channel starts to see a trend: let the viewer be in control of  their own ‘viewing’ experience, (viewing in quotations because they know watching TV is no longer a passive viewing experience by traditional definition, but an interactive experience that spans platforms and senses) yet keep the TV show as the center of the conversation.

But what to do to make their own interaction with viewers unique? Hmm…

And then, a crafty researcher picks up her latest issue of FastCompany and reads the article about Xtranormal. Shazam!  The lightbulb goes off–

Solution: The cable channel lets it’s fans create the promos for the upcoming show/special.  Winning promos will run just like normal promos, giving the lucky winner (or winners) his/her 15 minutes of fame.

How the contest would work: The cable channel would promote the contest on air/off air/through social networks/on its website.  Promotions would drive viewers to the channel’s website, where the microsite for the contest would have videos about the upcoming show/series, contest guidelines, etc.  so viewers could learn about the show they are going to be creating a promo for.  And of course- the most important aspect of the microsite would be the embedded Xtranormal technology, allowing the viewer to create his/her promo directly on the channel’s website.  Viewers would only be able to use the custom characters, voices, sounds, actions, settings, etc. that Xtranormal would have created for the cable channel (back to the FastCompany article- the company is hinging making a profit on customization).  If each viewer has to work with the same customized elements, then it’s the dialogue/action/overall creativity they choose that will make the promos unique and entertaining but at the same time still ‘on-brand’ for the channel.

And talk about easy…viewers would simply have to create the promo with the customized elements and hit upload.  And the social networking aspect? A viewer would have to share the video on at least one other social site when they submit the video to the channel’s website. (think of the ubiquitous ‘share now’ buttons that link to twitter, facebook, digg, stumbleupon, etc. ) The ripple effect from sharing could be, in my humble opinion, huge.  (People love to share weird/interesting/unique things with friends, especially when incentivized)

Why I think this contest could be a big success: All three parties involved- the cable channel, Xtranormal, and viewers would benefit.  And it’s pretty simple.

1. Cable channel benefits: What better way to ensure that promos resonate with viewers than if the viewers create them themselves? And the cable channel would also benefit from letting viewers do a lion share of the promotion for the show through sharing videos through social networks… ah the ripple effect.

2. Xtranormal benefits: Perhaps help them turn a profit?  From the FastCompany article: ‘revenue now comes from selling special characters and sets to users.’  Creating custom elements for a cable channel would increase revenue by a larger scale than just selling special characters/sets to individual users.  Also, lots of added promotion for Xtranormal through the cable channel’s use of the technology (assuming the cable channel would either keep the Xtranormal tag on the video or at least link to the Xtranormal website)

3.  Viewer benefits: Chance for your creative work to be on TV? Not too shabby… and the chance to feel like your thoughts matter/can influence a cable channel? Also, not too shabby– I’ve written about it before, but I think the more viewers/consumers feel involved with your brand, the better– for all parties involved (past post here)

Now all I need is a cable channel and Xtranormal to buy into my idea… but I do think the idea of uploading video as a way to engage viewers is a very simple and workable idea… so hopefully this idea is a real possibility!

I haven’t done much research on as to what demographics best fit this idea, but judging from the stats and demo information from YouTube and Twitter/Facebook, I’d say video upload/watching attracts a broad audience:

‘People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily. In fact, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube…Our user base is broad in age range, 18-55, evenly divided between males and females, and spanning all geographies. Fifty-one percent of our users go to YouTube weekly or more often, and 52 percent of 18-34 year-olds share videos often with friends and colleagues. With such a large and diverse user base, YouTube offers something for everyone.’ (via YouTube factsheet).

Gender is also relatively equally split on facebook/twitter, and the 18-44 age break accounts for 70% of users for both facebook and twitter. (information via this infographic)

Given this small amount of research, (my data lovin’ self is begging for more, but you probably aren’t) and the findings that both YouTube and Facebook/Twitter’s sweet spot in terms of age looks to be 18-44, (taking into account that 18-34 year olds mentioned as the ones who share videos instead of the 18-55 age group for Youtube and the 18-44 age break for the social networks) a younger skewing cable channel would probably benefit most from this type of promotion.  I would also assume that a channel with an already strong online ‘fanbase’ would most greatly benefit from this type of promotion, as the cable channel would have to leverage these core fans to be the first guinea pigs (or referencing The Tipping Point, the influencers who will spread the word about the project).

And why do I call the idea simple? The idea of uploading video isn’t earth shattering- or hard- and Xtranormal touts itself as a simple, easy to use platform.  From their info page on facebook: ‘ If you can type, you can make movies. The characters in the movie speak the dialogue in the script, and react to performance triggers—icons that are dropped directly into the script, just like smileys in IM/chat. Movies can be shared through e-mail, blogs and online video sharing and social networking sites such as YouTube™, MySpace™ and Facebook.™ And a cable channel running a contest?  Not exactly earth shattering, either. 

Simply, this idea embraces social networking, advances in technology, and the changing ways in which viewers consume television to, hopefully, successfully promote a television show/special & engage viewers.

So what do you think? Feasible? Silly? Boring? Willing to try it out?

At the very least- am I showing you that maybe, just maybe, researchers can be creative thinkers?

And just for some giggles, the video I made on Xtranormal… in about 5 min… just to show how easy it is:


10 Jan

*keep it simple and sincere.

(c’mon, did you really think I’d call you stupid- you are, after all, reading my blog!)

Simple question, hard answer: What makes advertising great?

I’m not even going to attempt to put a bucket answer on such a subjective question, but I will throw my two cents in as to what I think makes advertising great: a positive return, a change from pre-advertisement conditions. And that positive return can manifest as  an  increase in sales, an increased brand awareness, a positive shift in brand perception, etc. etc. etc.  (the return will be determined by the original intent of the advertising)

And the best way to get a positive return from advertising efforts?  I think it’s keeping things simple and sincere.

Simplicity- Bottom line, what does the consumer want/need? And how do we shape our message to best meet these needs?  I think if we work backwards– by really deconstructing and dissecting what consumers need, (thank you research) we can craft a message that is concise and simple.  The advertisement itself doesn’t need to be simple- it can still be bursting with creativity- but the message can’t get lost for the creative’s sake.

Sincerity- At the end of the day, we’re all consumers.  We know how we like to be talked to- so keeping that in mind, why don’t we, as advertisers, talk to our consumers as if we’re talking to ourselves- with sincerity.  Remember the golden rule we all learned in kindergarten- ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’- yep, that’s how I think we should approach advertising.  If you don’t like to be yelled at, don’t yell at your consumers.  If you don’t like to be mislead by false promises, don’t mislead your consumers.  If you don’t like to be treated like a unaware fool, don’t treat your consumers like unaware fools.   Sounds like a simple enough concept, but I think sometimes the glitz and glamour of what a product/service could be (and what we wish it was) gets in the way of what it actually is, and sincerity is lost on consumers.

Simplicity and sincerity- concepts that are easier said than done- but when executed, give us best fighting chance to reach/connect with our consumers and get that positive return.  And why easier said than done?  Because it takes work- finding out what the consumer really wants will take time and research.  It’s easier to create a flashy ad void of  real message than a meaningful ad that will truly connect with consumers.  Proof? How many bad advertisements have you seen lately?

A great example of simplicity and sincerity working together for a positive return: Domino’s Pizza recent campaign.  The message was simple- we know our pizza hasn’t been the best, but we’ve changed it now and it’s better.  The message was also sincere- we know our pizza wasn’t the best because we listened to our customers.  We’ve taken that feedback and changed our ingredients.

And the positive return? Well I think Domino’s probably reaped a few- namely, a positive shift in brand perception and an  increase in sales and revenue. (learned from attending the AdAge IDEA conference)  Domino’s started with what the consumer wanted/needed- a better pizza- and then crafted the message to best meet that need.  And then Domino’s was truly sincere about the campaign- facing their criticism head on and making necessary changes.

And another campaign (albeit sadly not real, just a case study) that shows the ‘magic’ you can create by keeping advertising simple and sincere:

(John St.‘s shortlist video for strategy‘s Agency of the Year)

Don’t you just want to K.I.S.S. now?

(and get a positive return from your advertising efforts)

Life After Oprah/Here’s To a New Decade

3 Jan

And no, I’m not referencing the end of the talk show.

Given that it’s a new year and a new decade, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting about my life over the past 10 years.   And the one moment I keep coming back to- and one that I will never forget- is my 15 minutes of fame on the Oprah Winfrey show:

Basking in Oprah's glow and loving my new dark hair.

Summer, 2004.  Twin sis and I are about to head off to college, (me- Wake Forest University, her- Washington and Lee University) and we’re slowly realizing that for the first time in our lives, we’ll be individuals.  We won’t be known as ‘the twins’- we’ll be known as ourselves. Crazy exciting.  And as if that wasn’t exciting enough- twin sis has decided to go by her middle name rather than her first name.  Wow.  We’ll still look alike, sure- but we won’t even be known by our traditional ‘AJ‘ when we come home from school!

And then enter life changing moment: the call from Oprah.  Twin sis and I are huge Oprah fans- I’m talking the crazy fans who apply to be on the show- and low and behold, that summer there was a ‘makeover’ show looking for candidates.   Twin sis, the gifted writer of the family, wrote into Oprah with our story– twins separated for the first time, individuals at school but still lookalikes when together.  And wonders of wonders, the folks at Oprah picked our story– and the rest, as they say, is history.  She became a blond, and I became a brunette.  And.we. got.to.meet.Oprah. (not even embarrassed to admit it, I cried.  Love that lady.)  Sure, we still look alike- but as sisters, not as twin sisters!  (Read more about my 15 mins of fame here)

But life after Oprah? Can anything else compare to meeting your #1 idol? Well folks, if you’re not the sentimental/sappy type you might want to skip ahead- I’m a hopeless romantic and also hopelessly idealistic.  This is a lethal combination– I find joy in even the smallest things in life and I believe that anything (with some hard work) is possible.  While every moment of the past 10 years certainly hasn’t been television worthy like my Oprah appearance, there have been plenty of other amazing life changing moments.  And I can only believe that as long as I can hold onto my romantic/idealistic view of life, life can only get better and better…right?

So here they are- the past decade boiled down to 9 other life changing moments, followed by 10 aspirations for the next 10 years of my life (that may even just topple my Oprah moment).

The best of the past 10 years:

1. Got my driver’s license at the ripe ol’ age of 15, the state of SC says you’re ready to get behind the wheel.  Shiver.  And I was so ‘ready’ I failed the test 3 times before I finally got that coveted piece of plastic.  Lesson learned: Some things in life are hard, but if you really want it, you just got to keep trying. And trying. And trying…

2. Landed my first job- This southern belle traded in her pearls, rolled up her sleeves, and took a job on a farm. And loved it. In fact, I loved it so much I worked my way up to farm manager (ahem, in charge of a staff of 3, 21 calves, 1 pig, countless chicken and goats, picking vegetables to supply the connected summer camp, and supervise the camp children when they came to help out).  I don’t think there is anything much harder or more gratifying than manual labor.  You know when you’ve done a good job, and that feels damn good.

3. Studied abroad in Vienna, Austria- study abroad 101: you should probably speak the language of the country you’re going to live in for 4 months.  Oops.  Without ever have taken a single German course, I hopped on a plane to Vienna and never looked back.  Like I said, I’m idealistic- I not only survived the experience, I thrived.  Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and be ok with making a fool of yourself.

4. Graduated from college- Magna Cum Laude, Wake Forest University, top 25 University. Business major, history minor. Proud, proud moment.

5. Entered the ‘working’ world- No one likes their first job… except for me.  I am still (very happily) employed by my first post-graduate job.  Got incredibly lucky and have had amazing bosses who are also great mentors.  And with their help, and through lots of hard work I’ve been promoted twice.

6. Payed my first rent check and cell phone bill- Hello reality, it was nice to meet you.  Became financially independent, and I still find that fact exhilarating.

7. Ran my 1st half marathon- 13.1 miles in Annapolis, finish time of 1 hr, 54 minutes.  Ran the 1/2 marathon with Team-In-Training, 2 great friends, and more support from family/friends/co-workers than I could ever have imagined.  Equally proud of raising over $2,000 for cancer research and for running further than I ever have before.

8. Moved to NYC– that’s a check off the bucket list!  I have always dreamed of living in NYC, and now that I’m here, I feel like I’m living in a dream.  After living in the city a year and a half, I still find New York magical- and I hope I always do.

9. Turned 25- For some reason, I always thought that when I turned ’25’ I would have life completely figured out.  Well, I turned 25 and had the cliche ‘quarter life crisis’ when I realized I didn’t have a clue what I wanted in life.  So instead of cry about it, I created justallie.com to help me explore my various interests.

And now, drumroll please, the 10 things I most want will accomplish in the next decade:

1. Live and work abroad- I want to have a more global perspective for my work, and I think the best way to learn is to completely immerse myself in a foreign culture.  Where do I want to go… more like where do I not want to go? I would love to live in multiple places- the more I’m exposed to, the more well-rounded I think I can be.

2. Become a home owner- Sure, if I stay in New York it will probably be a tiny shoebox of a walk up apartment.  But it will be mine.  And I’m dying to say ‘my home.’ (and let’s be honest- to decorate in any way I want)

3. Strengthen my voice- Ok, so this one is a bit selfish.  I want to be really good at what I do- so good that I have the opportunity to help others.  I’ve been lucky to have great mentors so far, and I can only hope that I can one day be one as well.

4. Get a dog- I’m dying for a dog.  I mean dying.  Proof? My mom got me an electronic dog for Christmas.  I know I can’t have a dog right now- my apartment isn’t big enough, I have absolutely zero green space for the little guy, and I don’t have enough time to devote myself to a new puppy.  But one day (maybe when I own that home) soon I hope to be able to have one!

5. Live by myself- I love the girls of 137, but eventually I want to live sans-roommates.  Maybe this goal will be a stepping stone before I become a homeowner!

6. Run the NYC marathon- I will not move away from NYC before I run this marathon.  I’ve been denied from the lottery once, so this goal is within a 3 year reach.  Woo hoo!

7. Own a Vespa- I’m obsessed with vespas, and one day I will own one and use it as my primary means of transportation.  I’m not the best driver in the world, but I’m even willing to go back to ‘driving school’ for a vespa.  Especially something like this little baby here. (preferably in powder blue)

8. Learn photography- I really want to learn how to better capture life’s beautiful moments.  At the risk of sounding cliche, a [good] picture really is worth a thousands words… mine right now are worth about $2 since they always turn out so badly!

9. Always be a student- I never want to lose my curiosity… about everything.  I always want to be some kind of student and always keep learning (I’m a true nerd at heart).  I’m currently taking classes at NYU… let’s see where those take me!

10. Never become complacent- I always want to challenge myself.  The day when I become a smug know it all is the day I will consider myself to have failed.

So there you have it- my aspirations for the next 10 years of my life.  Some will be more easily attained than others, some are a little silly, some will only come after lots and lots of hard work, but all of them are as equally important to me on the verge of a new decade.

See ya’ later Oprah, I’ve got a lot to look forward to/accomplish in the next 10 years!

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