It’s back! Social Media News has been on hiatus for a couple weeks, as my client work (and spending time with my Valentine) always comes first- but I am getting back on track with this week’s update.
In the social media sphere, change happens in a blink of an eye. While I was on break from blogging a lot of big things happened in this space, most notably the release of Google Buzz. The buzz about Buzz is that it’s Google’s latest life-streaming social media portal. Like Twitter and Facebook, Buzz allows users to keep in touch with friends and by sharing status updates, links, photos, and more.
Is Buzz a formidable threat to Twitter and Facebook? Maybe, but probably not. Buzz is integrated with Google’s email platform Gmail, and I’m guessing Google thought that would be a good way to gain immediate adoption en masse. But for many internet users, email use is in decline as social media use continues to rise. If Google had released Buzz two or three years ago it could have gained real traction, but unfortunately many would-be early adopters have already abandoned their Gmail accounts in favor of Facebook messaging (which is moving towards a full webmail service, code named Project Titan).
Also while I was off the grid, I missed a couple of birthdays. Flickr and Facebook both turned six years old this month. That’s a pretty long time in Internet years; do you think they’ll make it another six?
Tiger took a step forward in humanizing himself today at his “press conference.”
We were all looking for him to take responsibility in a meaningful way and to a certain extent, he did that. By saying that it doesn’t matter what he says to his wife, but how he demonstrates his love for her over time told us that he gets it.
The fact that he is not rushing back to golf, but is instead going back to rehab, also tells us that he is sincere about moving past this chapter of his life.
Bottom line, he continues to be a very private individual who will only be “managed” so much. Americans, and those across the world, should know better than to ever have believed he was holier than thou. Tigers are after all, wild animals! He’s a great golfer and that’s what we should expect from him.
In January 2006, Howard Stern left ‘terrestrial’ radio to go to satellite radio with a five-year, $500 million contract. Fast forward to 2010, and we are in the final year of that contract. And the man we rarely saw or heard from in the past four years is suddenly red-hot; entertaining new jobs at both American Idol and back to ‘terrestrial’ radio (of which he persistently bashed on his way out.)
First, he said he would not re-sign with Sirius XM. Given their $0.86 stock price and $1 billion in debt, Stern just may get his wish. If he doesn’t re-sign with Sirius, then what?
BusinessWeek reported Clear Channel thinks Stern is a ‘logical’ choice for them, even though his new contract would be a huge sum to take on as terrestrial radio revenue continues to decline year over year. And leaving the freedom of satellite back to the muddled arms of the FCC does not seem like a path he would be likely to follow.
On Monday, Stern confirmed he was in talks with American Idol, which will be looking for a new abrasive judge after Simon Cowell exits at the end of this season. His qualifications to judge a singing contest are about as deep as current judge, Ellen DeGeneres, so why not? American Idol is one of the few outlets that could actually afford Stern’s current paycheck.
You have to create demand to be in demand. Stern has always proclaimed himself the “King of all Media” and the way the press is jumping at the chance to cover his every move (or possibility of a move), maybe he still is.
“Men in tighty whities are disgusting.” – Mary Ann Mele, R&R Partners President and Chief Strategic Officer
Google won by simply being themselves. The eTrade babies’ “milkaholic” ad was a winner. Punxsutawney Polamalu is not only difficult to spell – it was also fairly creepy, but effective. Coke, while easy to spell, was painfully irrelevant. The GoDaddy ads should just go away.
That’s the general consensus from a solid hour of R&R Partners’ Monday morning quarterbacking of the advertising blitz surrounding that roman numeral-suffixed game played the day before. Our panel of critics included people from all disciplines within the agency.
In case you used commercial breaks for something other than awaiting the unveiling of new advertisements, every spot is easily viewable online. Check out YouTube’s channel, where you can vote for your favorite, or Fox/MSN’s site, which organizes them by quarter.
Overall, our panel thought the 2010 ads were mediocre, with a few bright spots. Absent were the emotional tearjerkers and ads with brand engagement through the Internet. Plentiful were ads bashing white, out-of-shape men – and other concepts we felt like we’d seen many times before.
“I just don’t like the tired formulas,” Associate Creative Director Tony Marin said. “People getting hit, underwear jokes – all of that just makes me cringe.”
“It’s a reflection of the times, but everybody is very, very afraid of doing anything that isn’t pretty safe,” Executive Vice President/Creative Director Randy Snow added. “Even the stuff that was ‘edgy’ was pretty safe. As much as I loved the Google ad, it was just a product demo. There was really no risk in that ad. … It’s because of the economy. Nobody wants to take a shot with $3 million. They’d rather animate animals or pull Troy Polamalu out of a hole.”
That fear kept some normally ad-friendly brands, such as Fed Ex, out of the game entirely.
“They said it was because of cost and because of scrutiny. They laid off employees,” Executive Vice President Rob Dondero said. “And the official NFL beer, Coors, wasn’t even in it.”
Public Relations Group Account Director Clinton Pope asked about the propensity of allowing people to preview the ads prior to the game through YouTube, etc.
Executive Creative Director Arnie DiGeorge had firsthand knowledge. “I did that; I went on the night before and watched all the ones that I could actually see before the game and they all seemed to be bad ones, for the most part. I think those are the ones people are previewing – the ones that really don’t have confidence,” he said. “Your best choice is to have a teaser for the ad that isn’t the ad. But it still has to be great.”
That’s what it boils down to, of course – having a great ad. Some brands, like Doritos and Bud Light, chose quantity over quality, each using a bunch of completely unrelated spots hoping for one or two that “stuck.” Some chose to stick to one message.
“If you’ve got a good campaign and you’ve got multiple pieces of the same thing telling the story, that’s cool, and if you’ve got a brim of broad audiences and you’ve got one against different passion points, that’s cool, too,” Associate Media Director Jeremy Thompson said.
“I thought the Budweiser ads fell short. You go into it with people really expecting a lot from them, and I don’t think they got there,” LVCVA Group Account Director Kim Downing said. “I really liked the (Volkswagen) ‘slugbug’ ad. It was nostalgic; it showed the product. I just thought it was really good.”
Corporate Director of Digital Marketing Sean Corbett was enamored with the reaction from perhaps the world’s largest focus group – the instantaneous opinions offered up on Twitter.
“The minute a spot ran, you’d start seeing the opinions flow through the Twitter stream. It was really cool to watch. A lot of ad folks, obviously, every agency in the country, seemed to be online last night – and then general people catching on and talking about the ads was really cool,” he said.
Google’s spot, essentially a product demo, was lauded by the entire group. “It did everything it needed to do. It showed you how much Google is part of our life, it told a story. It was simple. It used their user interface. … It was a great spot,” DiGeorge said.
“It reminded me of why I choose to use it every day over Bing. They are about simplicity; they are about ease-of-use. It was a really great change-up from everything we had seen,” Corbett added.
“I think they accomplished in one ad what Bing has been trying to accomplish with tons of ads,” Marin said.
The T-Pain ad, even though it was basically a different vision of the “Wassup” ads of a few years so, still worked.
The eTrade babies, specifically the “milkaholic” spot, was solid.
“I liked the eTrade babies but I’d like to see them go in a different direction now. This should be the end of that type of campaign,” Pope said.
Coke’s efforts, which included a certainly-not-cheap use of “The Simpsons” and a few even less memorable spots, completely missed the mark. Nobody really cared for the sleepwalking guy, either.
“The fact that a bunch of people from an ad agency sat in a room just to talk about the commercials, and for an hour Coke never entered the discussion – for a brand that big to go that unnoticed says a lot,” said yours truly, Web Content Developer Sal DeFilippo.
The Who, and more so, the people who were stuck watching them.
“The Twitter backlash on The Who was vicious. One of the better comments was, “can somebody please hurry up and wrap up The Who show because they have to get home and watch Matlock.”
GoDaddy.com – most disappointing “by far,” according to Pope.
Taco Bell – the commercials that aired in advance leading up to a very dull “Green Eggs and Ham” spot featuring Charles Barkley. (Note: In fairness, not too many words rhyme with “gordita.”)
One of the best things about living in the 21st century is that, even at my advanced age, there are still an infinite number of new experiences available. Things I want to do that I haven’t yet done. Over the last weekend in January, I was able to cross another one off the list when I spent three days at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
What I’m not going to do here is review the films I saw. I did reviews in my last entry. No need for more of that. Instead, I’m going to share some observations from my first trip to what has become America’s largest and most influential film festival.
A Trip to Sundance Doesn’t Need to Cost an Arm and a Leg
I suppose you can spend a ton at Sundance, but you don’t have to. Tickets to the screenings are $15 each. And if you stay in Salt Lake City, which is only a 35-minute drive on I-80 from Park City, there are a bunch of affordable hotels and restaurants. Leave the high-end resorts and pricey Park City restaurants to the folks from Paramount and Universal with the big expense accounts.
Given Its Size and Scope, Sundance is Really Well Organized
The festival lasts 11 days. It screens more than 500 different films in 15 different theaters in four different cities. Screenings begin at 8:30 each morning and go past midnight every day. And it all runs like clockwork. The shuttle buses are there to take you where you need to go when you need to get there. The screenings start on time. The quality of the sound and picture in every venue – many of which are not movie theaters – is impeccable. There are volunteers everywhere to get you in and out of screenings, answer questions, fix problems and deal with complaints. I’m guessing they probably started working on the logistics for the 2011 festival the day after the 2010 version ended. The preparation shows. Sundance has become a well-oiled machine.
The Audience Is Surprisingly Diverse
Full disclosure. I went to Sundance fully expecting to be immersed in a world of insufferable hipsters, pretentious film snobs and obnoxious Hollywood types. Granted, I ran into all three, but the bulk of the crowds were, for the most part, normal people. Young people, seniors, parents and kids, gay, straight, Muslims, Mormons, Asians, African-Americans and Caucasians. And because they receive a discount on tickets, the screenings attract lots of locals. The one thing everyone shared was a love of film and a desire to see things that probably aren’t going to show up at the local multiplex.
Finally, there was one more thing about the Sundance audiences that I found surprisingly refreshing, leading to my next observation:
Sundance Audiences Are Unfailingly Polite
They queue up and wait patiently until it’s time for their screening to be seated. They show up on time. They don’t cut in line. They carry on intelligent conversations about film with others while waiting in line. They turn off their cell phones during the films. Let me repeat that: They turn off their cell phones during the films. They don’t carry on personal conversations while others are trying to hear the movie. They applaud for every film. They stay engaged and ask intelligent questions at screenings that feature Q & A (and most do). In other words, while the audiences may look a lot like those you’re likely to see on a regular Saturday at your favorite 16-screener, they certainly don’t act like them. Did I mention they turn off their cell phones during the films?
The Festival Is a Corporate Marketing Extravaganza
Honda, Hewlett-Packard and Entertainment Weekly were the primary corporate sponsors. Their logos, cars, magazines and materials were everywhere. Everyone was walking around with water bottles compliments of Brita. Every volunteer wore a jacket or vest emblazoned with a huge Kenneth Cole logo that stretched from shoulder to shoulder. Even the areas containing the serpentine lines we all had to stand in while waiting to get in to screenings were sponsored – appropriately – by Southwest Airlines. I suppose one could be up in arms that an event that began as a small, iconoclastic festival celebrating the rebellious spirit of independent filmmakers has become a “marketing platform” for companies like Honda and hp. But I’m not. What isn’t sponsored these days? Concert tours, college bowl games and fireworks displays all have corporate sponsorship attached. Why not the country’s biggest film festival? If the marketing support helps them make the event bigger, better and available to more people, where’s the harm? In America, that’s how we roll.
A Word About the Films
I saw seven features and five shorts in two and a half days. I would have seen eight, but the airline sponsor of the festival – Southwest – was 90 minutes late out of Las Vegas, denying me the opportunity to stand in their “sponsored” line to get into my first screening. But I digress.
Here’s the thing. Just because a film has been chosen to screen at Sundance does not mean it’s a masterpiece. Of the features I saw, three were very good, three were pretty good and one was ponderous, pretentious, political and – for all I know – still running. I bailed out after two hours when it was showing no signs of ending.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that ratio pretty much held true for the whole festival. Some great, most pretty good and a few just difficult to get through. That’s OK. That’s the joy of film, especially independent and off-the-beaten-track film. Things get tried, experiments are conducted, and first-time directors gain the experience of making their first films. Not everything works for everyone. But everything probably works for someone. The joy of a festival like Sundance is that of discovery. I walked into each screening without any clue or preconception of what to expect. The point is, you never know. Chances are good you’ll see a film that will never show up at any theater or on any cable channel. Then again, you just might get a year’s head start on something great. Case in point: One of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Film – Precious – premiered at the 2009 Sundance Festival. More than 20 years ago, a young unknown director named Quentin Tarantino brought a film called Reservoir Dogs to Park City. Stories like that abound. Think how cool it would have been to be at one of those screenings.
Overall, Sundance exceeded almost every one of my expectations. I had a great time. I wouldn’t want to do it every weekend, but it is great to immerse myself in film with thousands of others who share the same passion. I would suggest to anyone who enjoys the medium to get to a festival of some sort. It doesn’t have to be Sundance or Cannes. There are hundreds of smaller festivals throughout the year. Find one and enjoy it. We used to have one here in Las Vegas call CineVegas. It was great fun. Unfortunately, it was also a victim of the economic downturn. It is now “on hiatus.” No one knows if it will ever return. Which is a shame, because Las Vegas, with its theaters, its resorts, its nightlife and its energy, is the perfect place for a world-class fest. Anyone can dare to dream. In the meantime, I’m already making plans for my next visit to Park City.
The list includes James Earl Jones, Tom Hanks, Bill Cosby and even Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs (which is why he’s probably seen hawking Ford products)
America’s largest companies pay those celebs handsomely, hoping the trust they’ve earned in America will rub off and validate their brand too. Most of the actors on the list have spent decades in the public eye, often advocating for causes as well as their movies, while also avoiding public transgressions. Meaning, they earned it from a skeptical America.
So much of what we do in advertising, public relations and more importantly – in life – is about earning a reputation built on trust and credibility.
For these spokespeople and the companies it’s a business deal, but in your personal business, where do you stand on trust and credibility?
It’s certainluy an issue Toyota is wrestling with today and so many are watching them closely.
It’s my firm belief that organizations and their leaders earn reputations every day through their actions, by how they respond to critics, take care of their customers, and how they respond to both opportunity and failure.
For those companies who can’t afford a celebrity on the A-list (which is most companies) start by making sure your corporate behavior and leaders are worthy of being on your customer’s a-list of trust and admiration.
Last week, I sent an email out about the upcoming announcement for what Steve Jobs would soon confirm as Apple’s iPad. Rumors abounded and be sure that there are countless articles describing Apple’s brilliance for creating buzz by staying silent. But now that I’ve combed through the available information, I’m not decided if the iPad will be as transformative as the iPod or iPhone. But I do see something else.
If you missed the announcment, you can check out videos on Apple’s website or YouTube.
Imagine a bigger, more expensive iPhone that doesn’t make calls (but can do web calls), support Flash (yet), or cater to games like most analysts predicted…and you’ll have a fair understanding of this new product.
Much remains to be seen about how it will shape ebooks (Washington Post), handle games, revolutionize apps, et cetera.
But I’m pretty sure that we’re seeing the capabilities we can expect in a host of other devices. Touchscreen interfaces, web connectivity, and social connectedness…
On the next round of televisions
At public kiosks
In home security systems
We’ve been hearing about convergence for a decade. And true, some computers have TV tuners and DVR capabilities (Windows Media Center anyone?), and every concert goer is accustomed to LCD displays from cell phones replacing Zippos. But here, with the iPad, most every functionality is built into a tiny display that is easily transportable. Soon, HP will release its own version, Slate, and we can anticipate expanded capabilities and compatibilities with the Microsoft operating system (especially with games) that will likely broaden the appeal of a presumably niche product.
Whether the iPad becomes a niche product or blows up like the iPod remains to be seen. But we can be sure, as advertisers we will be reaching people on the go with control over their content in most any situation that they are in. Even on an international flight locked on the relatively small confined space known as a jumbo jet, they may watch the movie (or choose from many channels depending on the carrier), take out their laptop to do some work, browse the inflight magazine, read a book or magazine they brought along or (GASP!) talk to the person next to them.
As these technologies mature, we can expect our access to consumer data to become greater. Greater. As in more of it. How we analyze that data and create insights will be fundamentally the same, except we’ll be able to apply it to just about every advertising initiative we place. Optimization, reporting, and the anayltics we are mastering online today will converge with the delivery of other mediums (broadcast, radio, newspaper/magazines, and even out of home).
Whether the iPad blows up and becomes a cultural phenomenon will play out this spring. But looking back in 5 or 10 years, I think that we’ll be able to say that the iPad was the first glimpse of the way we will interact with and access content in our living rooms and on the road. Unless you’ve seen Total Recall or Minority Report.
The use of color to denote and reinforce brand is not new but a recent Sprint TV commercial reminds me that this tactic is still strong. Recently, Sprint has been featuring TV spots that obviously play on its yellow and black brand colors. As you’ll see in this TV spot, and other new ones, the actors’ clothes and products are highlighted in yellow and black. Same as the Sprint logo.
Getting consumers to connect your brand through color is one simple way to cut through the clutter and be more visibly identifiable. With the thousands of messages consumers receive every week, using color is one way to help your brand stick and to get your product, logo, packaging, advertisement to connect in the consumer’s mind.
Not that color alone makes a brand effective. Smarter folks than I have long said that brand is the emotional connection between your product and the consumer.
But the history of strong brands is full of strong color connections.
Coke is arguably the most famous, with the use of what has long been called Coke Red. And UPS took brown (what some may have seen as a negative) and leveraged the color in its “What can Brown do for you?” campaign to signify a long list of positive service attributes.
Naturally, brand color needs to be carried consistently through every touch-point and this Smashing magazine article looks at who’s doing it well online.
Folks who study color and even music have long discussed how those attributes make long-lasting emotional connections in our minds. And no matter how sophisticated our technology gets, those attributes should never be discarded or underestimated in advertising.
Did you see Toyota President and COO Jim Lentz’s full page, open letter to customers appearing in newspapers across the country today? Sure, he says he’s sorry right after he tells customers that for 50 years Toyota has provided safe, reliable and quality cars.
Yet, he acknowledged to Matt Lauer on the Today Show that Toyota has known about the sticking accelerator problem since October, 2009. So, for at least three months, Toyota has been dragging its feet trying to avoid a half-billion per month recall. Does that sound like a commitment to safety or to economic preservation?
Instead of trying to preserve market share and drive Toyota customers to dealerships where they can be up sold as they wait for a basic function of their cars to be repaired, Lentz should be providing specific information about how customers, and the rest of us, can keep ourselves safe. That may be impossible though.
We really have no idea how many Toyotas on the road right now are affected because those numbers have not been released. We just know that eight Toyota brands have been recalled and sales stopped on those models. Do you really think that everyone of those will be fixed? Next time you’re at a stop sign, take an extra hard look at the emblem closing in on you in your rear view mirror!
Apple’s iPadwas the biggest news last week, drawing attention from every corner of the web. Within minutes of the announcement, hype turned into hysterics as the jokes started pouring in. Apparently #iTampon was the third most trending topic that evening. Many see the Maxi- I mean iPad as a huge threat to existing eBooks like the Kindle. I’m not so sure about that. Yes the iPad has a full color LED display, but one very important feature of a true eBook is eInk. This is a low res, black and white display with a low refresh rate that reduces eye strain, making the screen more like reading printed paper. To me the iPad is like a glossy magazine, but the Kindle is like a simple black and white novel. The bookworms that consume the most eBook content are going to stick with Kindle, and the iPad will appeal to people looking for a Netbook first, eBook second.
Interested in measuring ROI from your Facebook efforts? That’s about to become a little easier when Facebook rolls out its new conversion tracking tool. Facebook announced the upcoming feature at last week’s OMMA Social event in San Francisco. MediaPost embedded video from the discussion on this article.
Proctor & Gamble is officially in favor of social media marketing, embracing Facebook in particular and encouraging its brands to do the same. I found it interesting that in the article reporting on this topic, AdAge felt it was necessary to quote Ted McConnell, general manager-interactive marketing and innovation for P&G, with contradictory remarks from 2008. This one caught my eye:
“Who said this is media?” he said. “Media is something you can buy and sell. Media contains inventory. Media contains blank spaces. Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. … We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.”
With this quote AdAge is perhaps trying to demonstrate a riff in P&G’s ranks, though the remarks were said over a year ago and I have the suspicion that it may have been out of context. Whether McConnell supports social media marketing or not, this is a great quote with a lot of truth behind it. We can’t treat social media as advertising, it’s an entirely different kind of game. Ignite’s Jim Tobin was on the same wavelength in a recent Web Trends episode when he said, “The web is the worst place in the world for interrupting people.” I couldn’t agree more.