Marketing / Advertising: 9 Stories to Know from Last Week

On Monday mornings I send out an e-newsletter, IGNITION, that contains information and insights about things I’ve seen that are relevant and of interest to the marketing/advertising/digital communities. Below is a copy of the contents of this weeks report. If you’d like to receive it directly, fill out the form just to the right and it will be in your inbox first thing Monday morning.

What’s Reddit, and why did President Obama go on it?

On Thursday of last week, President Obama participated in an AMA on Reddit. What’s an AMA, and for that matter, what’s Reddit? AMA stands for ‘Ask Me Anything,’ it’s sort of an open forum Q&A. Reddit is an online content aggregator that is a very powerful online force. Reddit’s strength comes from the intense online community it has built. Back when the SOPA and PIPA Bills were being bandied about, it was Reddit that mobilized the online movement, picked up by dozens of major sites, that helped to stop those pieces of legislation in their tracks. Reddit is often a major website traffic driver and when people talk about ‘viral videos’ that magically attract millions of views, it’s often the case that the video has been pinging around Reddit.

President Obama’s 30 minute AMA session attracted more than 24,ooo comments from community members. Read this New York Times piece for more on Reddit. Just like Buzzfeed has turned itself into an Internet juggernaut, look for Reddit to possibly become more brand friendly in the future.


Content: Strategic and Creative Considerations

For planners and creatives, understanding the underlying structures of content consumption is critical (and apparentally alliterative [oops, did it again]).  Here’s a great piece, How We Consume Content Now that breaks down content consumption into four discrete segments: Focused use; Dual input; Time shift; Info snack. Each has its own behavioral and temporal distinctions. The trick is not just in understanding how to make a certain type of content, but rather how to make all the different types of content and strategically integrate them all into a program of consumer engagement.

For another interesting take on content, watch this interview by Brian Solis of Mike Rosenstein, producer at Red Hour Films (a Ben Stiller company).  Great insight on their ‘test and learn’ process for creating content that users want to watch.


More on Content

TechCrunch reports on a new Google study that looks at multi-screen usage. Yes, content drives the world, and increasingly it is content that is being accessed across multiple screens, often simultaneously. This piece offers terrific insight on how consumers jump from one device to another for such things as search, shopping, finance and watching online video. These are the types of considerations that must be factored in, whether creating long-form video, :30 TV spots or driving people to commerce sites.

The Nieman Journalism Lab has more on the growing trend of video news content. This is the type of piece you read and say, “We need to re-think how we’re communicating as a brand.” When every brand is a publisher (they are), the question becomes – how are they creating/producing that content? Who is actually going to do that? What agency partners are in the best position to provide strategic guidance and creative support?


IGNITE NYC Welcomes IconMobile’s Thomas Fellger

This week IGNITE NYC returns for episode 4, featuring Thomas Fellger of IconMobile. IconMobile Group is one of the leading international design agencies and technology suppliers in the mobile world – bridging design and technology. Thomas is a frequent speaker at many global, mobile focused conferences such as the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress, CTIA, and Mobile Marketing Association events; amongst many others. He also serves as advisor to many new start up technology companies. Also joining us will be Caleb Lubarsky, CSpire Account Manager here at Y&R New York. It should make for an excellent show, as we talk about the future of mobile. The live show will take place on Friday, September 7 at 3pm, in the Ney Center.


Social Gaming & the App Ecosystem

Trey Smith takes a look at the economics of social gaming and discovers that ‘free to play’ rules the kingdom. Social gaming is a significant cultural behavior shift and a serious money-making opportunity. This five minute read has some eye-popping figures. How does the game CSR Racing make $400,000 per day? In-app purchases (in real dollars) ranging from $3-$60.


Your Facebook Page Sucks…

Inane babble and desperate pleas for validation – it’s not just for Snooki. Brands have been acting that way on Facebook for years, and now someone has put together a site on Facebook (how meta) to expose the charade of “authentic communication.” Check out theCondescending Corporate Brand Page and ask yourself if it looks like your page at all.


… and Your Product is Offensive

The only thing worse than having your Facebook page mocked? Having your product ruthlessly (and deservedly) mocked in the reviews section on Amazon. Inexplicably, Bic thought women needed and/or wanted pens just for them. What does the public think? Read the reviews here. Perfect when you need a dose of hilarity in your day.  The lesson here (and above) is that consumers simply will not let you get away with it anymore.  The necessity for brands to employ a Chief Culture Officer has never been greater.


Cookbook / Comic Book

The evidence is overwhelming: Content is King. So, the question then is ‘how does my content stand out?’  NYC restaurant Dirt Candy has created acookbook that looks and reads like a comic book. Genius.


Subway Goes The Content Route

Subway restaurants is taking the content route, producing an original scripted series to be aired on Hulu. Plans call for six weekly online episodes, or webisodes, each running 10 or so minutes, with a new episode to begin streaming each Tuesday.

An Artisanal Pencil Sharpener; Virtual Sunglasses; Otaku Culture; Free Beer! – The Stack

Welcome to the Stack for April 30, 2012. This week we heavy up on video, explore Otaku culture with Henry Jenkins and see how one agency used gamification for a higher purpose: Unlocking the free beer fridge.

Be sure to check out the video of David Rees, the Artisanal Pencil Sharpener (really). It’s a great contrast for videos one and two which explore a more digital life. Get it all here.

You can get the Stack via email before it’s posted here by signing up (see the form to the right).

HologramTupac, The Wire, Milton Glaser & Moleskine in The Stack

Y&R Dubai Channels the New Aesthetic for Harvey Nichols

Creativity was the dominant theme this week, from Hologram Tupac at Coachella to the wisdom of Milton Glaser.  I continue to be fascinated by the rise of the New Aesthetic, as digitalism continues to become more pervasive.

Actually, quite a bit to enjoy in the stack this week, including a couple of long form videos. If you are a fan of the television show The Wire, you’ll love the video essay on the visual style of the show. For those looking to expand their horizons, watch the BBC program on infinity.

Finally, if you manage to ‘go viral,’ Ben Lashes is the bloke you’ll want to get in contact with.

Check out those and more in The Stack. If you’d like to get my weekly stack via email, you can subscribe here or check out the form on the right.

Emerging Culture Stack

From Casey Niestat's #MakeItCount video for Nike.

So, I’m really starting to dig the way Delicious has created this idea of ‘stacks.’ For the second week in a row, I’ve put together a ‘stack’ with my cultural findings for the week. Check out my most recent Emerging Culture Stack here.

If you’d like to get my weekly stack via email, you can subscribe here.


Mad Men, Pretty Little Liars, and I Just Want My Pants Back

This week’s theme music: A Beautiful Mine, by RJD2.

Mad Men Returns
After 17 months, Mad Men finally returned to our tablets, laptops, mobile phones and television sets this Sunday with a two-hour season premier that charted as the most social premiere of 2012 with 106,000 comments from 64,000 users. According to Bluefin Labs, Mad Men received more than twice the social buzz of any other drama that premiered in 2012. Alcatraz, which made its debut on Jan. 16, received 43,000 comments; Smash, which premiered Feb. 6, received 56,000 comments; and GCB, which premiered Mar. 4, received 21,000 comments. And while the episode seemed to receive widespread praise, there was something missing for me: advertising. Other than one scene in which Peggy has a meeting to pitch a new concept to Heinz, there was little in the way of the business of advertising, and without that, Mad Men becomes just another primetime soap opera for me. I appreciate that not everybody is going to be interested in the ‘inside baseball‘ aspects of the ad industry, but look at a show like The Wire. That show was almost 100% industry details (police, drug dealers, schools, politics, media) and it did just fine. I hope Mad Men fines space for more time about the creation of advertising.

In other SocialTV news, ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars is a show that should be on your radar screen. According to SocialGuide and reported by Mashable, Pretty Little Liars‘ season 2 finale “Unmasked” generated themost social media buzz of any regularly scheduled series in TV history. Some 50 topics — including five worldwide trends: Ezra, Garrett and Melissa, Spencer, Mona or Jenna, and Black Swan — trended on Twitter last Monday. By any measure that’s quite impressive, especially for a show that airs on a network most people probably couldn’t find without their cable guide.

Ok, Then What’s Next?
Right, so you’ve missed the Pretty Little Liars train and you want to get in front of the next cult hit show? Give MTV’s I Just Want My Pants Back a look. It’s a smartly written look at the life of a group of twenty-somethings as they try to get through life as best they can in Brooklyn and is based on David J. Rosen’s novel of the same name. The show’s website is chock full of content and with MTV’s social media machine revving up (read the Ad Age article How MTV and its shows got 100 million Facebook likes) this show has a chance to be a breakout scripted series for the network. Key factors that may drive its success? Cast members live tweet during first airings; UStream’s with a variety of the cast and producers (including Doug Liman and David J. Rosen) where they interact with fans and answer live viewer questions; and they’ve already generated 43,000+ likes on the show’s Facebook page. Read more on the show here.

Beautiful Design Can Make The Complex Simple
It seems the importance of design has had a renaissance in recent years. Agencies like IDEO and brands like Target have put an emphasis on the practice and the growth of data visualization and infographics as a means to tell a story has exploded on the Internet. This week I came across the simply elegant site, Inception Explained. One of the more enigmatic films of recent years made quite comprehensible, thanks to the efforts of Matt Dempsey.

Google Continues Its Foray Into The World Of Advertising
Project Re:Brief is a Google effort to reimagine classic ads in our modern world. In their words: This year, Internet advertising turns 18-years-old.And yet despite almost two decades of innovation online, digital ads are still being used to simply inform more than they’re being used to connect, engage and entertain. So we designed this experiment to re-imagine what advertising can be and push the boundaries of how creative ideas and our technology can work hand in hand.

The ads chosen to be reworked include the classic Coca-Cola “Hilltop,” Avis’s “We Try Harder,” Alka-Selzer’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” and Volvo’s “Drive it like you hate it.” I encourage you to explore the site and see how these spots are reimagined for today’s online/digital/social world.

When The Digital Goes Analog
Two continuing themes for me have been my admiration for PSFK, and my belief in quality print publications, whether they be experimental efforts like theNewerYork lit mag or ‘work as a lifestyle’ tome, Monocle. So when I read last week that PSFK was launching a new magazine called, Need to Know, well it was like chocolate and peanut butter coming together. So, this week I’ve stepped away from my weekly Kickstarter Support Project and ‘invested’ in this worthy effort. Read my mini-interview with PSFK’s Piers Fawkes for more. I think it’s saying something when a brand like PSFK, purveyors of digital ‘in the know,’ decide that print is a relevant medium for them. I’ve already ordered issue #1, I let you know my thoughts when it arrives.

SxSW Corporate Take-Over; Market Pricing Ads; Twitter Hacks

Here’s the latest edition of my weekly Culture newsletter. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox on Monday morning, click here and then hit the “Subscribe to list” button in the top left hand corner.

How the SxSW was won.
Two constants you hear about the SxSW conference are: “It used to be so much better before the big brands got involved,” and, “Who got the most buzz this year?”  This year those two notions merged as it seemed to me that American Express and Nike were probably the big winners coming out of Austin. American Express sponsored a Jay-Z concert that was not only the hottest ticket in Austin, but also generated more than 16 million views as it was live streamed on YouTube. The production included three camera angles that viewers could choose from and social integration via twitter with the #JayZSyncShow hashtag. Also generating a lot of heat was Nike with their Fuelband. As Digiday explains,Nike is now a tech company.  Mashable had the announcement of Nike’s release of the API for their FuelBand so hackers can take it to the next level. So, what does it mean for SxSW, and specifically SxSW Interactive, if American Express, Nike and Jay-Z are the ones generating the buzz? Does the event need to rethink its mission and purpose?  Does another event take its place as the launching pad for unknowns? The next few years will be critical for the development SxSW.

But before the conference is branded as nothing more than a platform for big brands, consider the case of Bina48.   Bina48 is the first robot panelist in SxSW history. As explained Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.Bina48 (also in attendance were actual humans: Brian Duncan of Terasem, Stephen Reed of TexAI and author/researcher John Romano of is based on the “mind files” from one Bina Rothblatt. Mind files are made up of units of information about a person, based primarily on their social media presence (video, pix, blogs), but also of psychological tests, Bainbridge surveys, and Sensecam data. Duncan told us that the Terasem hypothesis is that, given a comprehensive database, future intelligent software will be able to replicate consciousness. Rich personal data + a powerful AI = a virtual ‘you’. For this panel, the goal is not just artificial intelligence, it is digital life after physical death.

This robot is so far down in the Uncanny Valley it can’t even see the sky. You can read more on Artifical Intelligence as SxSWi here, but one thing I don’t ever see covered is how this will effect, or be effected by, brand communications. What methods would brands use to connect with A.I.? How would a robot react to a commercial? Seems like a question better left to scienc fiction writers perhaps, but my guess is that within the next 10 years we’ll be thinking about it more seriously.  I’m looking forward to seeing Bina48 in person later this month at TEDxHarlem.  I’ll have a further report then.  

Is the future variable-priced advertising?
In other technology news, this story about parking meters in San Francisco got my attention. The smart meters will have variable pricing depending on time of day and demand. In this way they hope to positively effect traffic patterns around the city. More on the plan and technology here.  Again, I ask the question, “how will this sort of technology effect brand communications?”  Would smart billboards in Times Sqaure, and other parts of the city, have variable pricing that could literally change hundreds of times a day based on traffic patterns, pedestrian volume, even weather? If so, what sort of systems would have to be in place between brands, ad agencies, media buying agencies, cities and the owners of the billboards to create the most efficient market? Perhaps Bina48 could play a role.

My son, the hacker
My 13-year old son doesn’t have a Twitter account, so I was a bit perplexed when he asked me to open up Twitter on my laptop. He then took over the keyboard and within 10 seconds said, “that’s your password, right?” I looked at the screen and yes, that was in fact my password. He had hacked Twitter, or maybe it was Google Chrome that he had hacked. Either way, it gave me pause. While certainly computer savvy, and into video games, my son is by no means a computer programmer (or future member of Anonymous). But that’s the point.  The old stereotype of a ‘computer hacker’ in his parent’s basement is completely outmoded. Being able to tweak the system is no longer the province of hardcore Wired magazine-reading techno-nerds. Nor was this some sort of illicit information gathered in some clandestine attempt to steal information. He was quite proud and open about it. Why shouldn’t he be, he’s part of a generation raised on cheat codes and Easter Eggs. The question is, how do we build brand messages into the hacks?  Yes, finding out my password was fun for him, but imagine if instead he had found a coupon for his favorite fast food joint or downloadable content (DLC) for his favorite game.  That’s the future of marketing to millennials.

An Underground Highline?
This week I’ve broken one of my Kickstarter Project rules. When I started this at the beginning of the year I said I wouldn’t support projects that had already achieved their funding goal. The point here was to help projects get funded, not jump on the bandwagon of popular projects. But I’ve decided to make an exception for the Lowline: An Underground Park on NYC’s Lower East Side. There are two reasons I’ve decided to break my rule for this project. First, this project is so awesome in scope and ambition. It will be an absolute game changer if it it realized. Secondly, though they have passed their original monetary goal, additional funding will help take the project to new levels. Check out the video here