Something to Depress You, Then Something To Lift You Back Up

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonWe are heading into the weekend after all, so a downer note seems irresponsible. Yet there’s no good way to spin this news, aside from the ever entertainable possibility that GoDaddy is lying. Given their marketing stance these past few years, they can’t be considered above that.

The horrible news is, their shock value spot from the Super Bowl with the nauseating sound actually worked. According to their flacks, GoDaddy posted more new customers and new sales on post-Super Bowl Monday than they have in history.  Hosting sales jumped 45 percent, domains 40 percent, and new mobile customers rose by 35 percent.

Dammit, that’s depressing. If there were justice in the way Super Bowl ads performed, that little Clydesdale foal would send Bud sales surging alongside Ram Trucks and that new thirty thousand dollar Mercedes, while Bud’s new Black Crown would disappear faster than it inevitably will on its own. It’s horrible to see society reward stupidity, vapidity and worse. But it happens. Advertising works. Even badvertising does.

On a far, far happier note, click on this link. And be reminded of humanity’s ever-renewing reason for optimism. A baby laughing at her popcorn-eating dog with this much husky throated joy is transformative. I expect somebody to rip it off by next year’s broadcast.

Happy Baby, Happy Friday, Happy Weekend.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Yet Another Superbowl Ad Post-Mortem

Fanhouse has their aggregation of the 2011 Superbowl ads, quarter by quarter, brought to us by Kia.

The faith-in-humanity-reducing USA Today Ad Meter declared its increasingly-suspect winners as chosen by a 282 person sampling of Californians and Virginians.

Hulu.com weighed in with their AdZone rankings, brought to us by Geico, and apparently they have a somewhat less shot-to-the-groin-friendly demographic.

On Sunday night, Fox presented Superbowl XLV to an audience estimated at over 110 million people, making it the single most-watched event in TV history.  Which helps explain both the $100,000/second pricetag for spots during the broadcast and the Monday morning creative directing by seemingly everyone.  Judging Superbowl ads has become our wintry national pastime.

One theme that came up just slightly less often than the reliable chestnut “the work just wasn’t as good this year” was the assertion that VW’s charming Star Wars-themed Passat ad “The Force” cheated. A number of blogs and commenters took issue with their decision to release that Superbowl Ad to YouTube last Wednesday, a full four days before the game itself.  The consensus seems to be that by racking up over fourteen million views before gametime, the ad somehow disqualified itself as a bona fide Superbowl ad.

Excuse me?

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingMarketing isn’t professional boxing.  There are no Marquess of Queensberry Rules insuring a level field of play.  We don’t want level playing fields. Our job is and has always been, to bend the rules, to do the unexpected, to earn favor and attention by innovating with our creative, strategic and media ideas.  In a socially-driven culture, building up a big head of steam for your contender isn’t cheating, it’s really, really smart.  Despite being hacktastic, Doritos’ “Crash the Superbowl” grows more successful every year in terms of entries and pre-game voting, to the point where Pepsi Max joined that crotch-whacking fray this year.

Aside from integrity and decency, there are no rules. Today, the biggest rewards await any brand clever enough to innovate how they weave together personal and broadcast networks in new and surprising ways.

Amidst a surplus of clutter and a deficit of attention, gaming the system is today’s ad game.

.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

.

The Best Way To Scale Social Media? Use TV. And Vice Versa.

One of the biggest complaints about Social Media is how difficult it is to scale.  Sure, your Twitter feed may have a thousand followers, but aren’t those people likely to already be in your brand’s camp?  And what exactly do you do with them, besides, you know, be social about your brand and stuff?  It’s way too micro, too one-to-one.  It’s simply not scalable unless you happen to be that allegorical advertiser with a million monkeys typing on a million socially-networked Dell computers…

No, what’s scalable is aggregating a big, whomping audience around one cool, memorable thirty second TV spot.  Television is scalable–that’s long proven.

Unfortunately, those big, whomping audiences are increasingly rare in today’s hyper-proliferated media world.  People simply don’t gather in one place anymore.  But they’re doing that right now.  And they did it last Sunday.  The Winter Olympics and the recent Super Bowl have drawn huge television audiences.  One reason for this resurgence in the most traditional of mediums?  Social media.

In an article for Advertising Age, John Rash posits that one of the reasons why the Vancouver Olympics are drawing an audience that’s 25% larger than four years ago in Turin could be the effect of tweets and Facebook updates.  The “I got it first” nature of so many social network messages, particularly when they concern an event or a personality, can actually drive larger audiences to the television.  Given a reminder, lots of us would like to catch a glimpse of Lindsey Vonn’s downhill gold or Shaun White’s latest halfpipe innovation, thus re-aggregating an audience around specific events.  And it is better watching it on television, particularly if you have one of those HD big screens that had such huge price drops last Holiday season.

Events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics get everyone talking, but most advertisers don’t need everyone; they just need large like-minded groups.  Integrating and encouraging messages on social media that drive traffic to television events large or small can clearly serve that purpose.

Media scalability is still very much possible.  Chances are, you’ve been experiencing it personally these past few weeks.  It’s not about any one medium; it’s about integrating multiple mediums.

Want to aggregate an audience?  Aggregate your media messages.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


So Apparently There’s This CGI Film In Theaters. And It’s Rather Popular.

Fact: Avatar’s first weekend worldwide box office was $242.5 million.

Fact: Avatar grossed $1.3 billion worldwide in less than a month.

Prevalent Speculation: Including marketing, the project represented a nearly $450 million bet.

Tactic: In this week’s Advertising Age, a cover story discusses the way 20th Century Fox marketed the movie: traditionally, with a $150 million ad spend, and big promotional partners.

Conclusion:  Don’t dismiss mass marketing yet.

Krakow, Poland

Yes, we live in radically altered times.  Opinion enjoys new mass channels as consumers actively dis-integrate old mass channels.  And yet, given a good story that piques our interest, raises some classic themes, and gets everyone talking, a compelling mass market message can still drive outrageous success.  It’s just now, when that advertising gets the whole world talking, individuals have places to further the discussion: Twitter, e-mail, even self-important blogs like this one.  When a story captures peoples’ imaginations, they pick up and pass it along for you, expanding the coverage and radically extending the media buy.  Today, if you generate good word of mouth, you get something mass marketing can rarely buy: sustainability.

People who’ve seen the movie, rave about it.  And that drives more sales, as positive word of mouth sways people who were considering seeing it, particularly in the pricier IMAX 3-D.

So Avatar’s wildly successful initial weekend box office results were not driven by social: there was no official Twitter account to follow.  And there was no viral digital experience (those lost favor when the Snakes on a Plane hysteria failed to drive audiences to theaters).

Just a lot of TV–including long format buys and major sponsor support–and some really strong PR.  Clearly, Avatar is a mass brand.  And it advertises that way.  Pepsi meanwhile, has loudly announced its decision to shun the Super Bowl.  Hmm…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Skewing Online Data: Why Marketers Should Think "Convergence" Not "Transference"

Studies show that if a brand wants to drive significant online impressions, they should advertise on TV.  Similarly, if a TV ad aspires to live longer than thirty seconds, it should continue the experience online.  Cross platform convergence makes today’s advertising media world far more complicated but also far more engaging,  The trick boils down to innovative, creative and effective platform coordination.

Unfortunately, in a tough economy with escalating TV media costs, many advertisers look to the web as simply a cheaper medium.  They don’t really understand the metrics but the siren call of lowcost of entry makes far too many forget any sense of basic strategic responsibility and ROI discipline.

Hopefully, that shortsightedness will change if enough marketers read about this study from Mpire, an online ad optimization company in Seattle.  MPire developed a new technology called AdXpose which recently determined that 95% of clicks and 50% of online ad impressions were fraudulent.

AdXpose: “95% of Clicks, Half of Online Ad Impressions are Fraudulent

If these numbers don’t knock you back, re-read that sentence again.  This fraud is nothing short of Madoff-esque.  For a medium with as much data-mining and measurability as the web, this kind of blatant gaming of the system threatens to destroy it’s incredible promise.  And if that seems like too big an exaggeration, like something confined to the small space bargain bins of discount web banners, watch the click counts on YouTube for the Super Bowl ads this coming February.  Some will legitimately spike as people relive or catch up on this cultural event.  But others, quite obviously, will be blatantly played.  It’s been happening the past few years by some of the biggest names: names that don’t have the track record of performance of say a Budweiser.  With this big a high-profile gamble, a little off-shore insurance can protect your career and so clicks skyrocket for spots that hardly bear watching once.  In some cases, this can even happen without the clients’ knowledge; insurance works for production companies and young directors as well.

Television skeptics have enjoyed quite a run these past few years, particularly over dated and dubious metrics like Nielsen.  Given these findings however, perhaps skepticism deserves its day.  And equal time.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Your Dentist and Neighbor Sent You Invites To Be Their Friend…

Reviewing the last few posts, apparently it’s Social Media week here at Collective-Thinking.  And that makes sense.  Disintegrating audiences in old media threw our industry into a tizzy; re-aggregated audiences in new media like social networks could provide a fresh playground for innovative marketing ideas and programs.

Eric Heneghan–digital smartguy, curious cat, and CEO of Elevation–tapped me into some amazing statistics about Facebook via, well, Facebook.  iStrategyLabs culled that social network’s demographic data for the past few years and just published these mind-blowing findings in their latest report

1)  The 35-54 year old demo is growing fastest, with a 276.4% growth rate in the last half year.

2)  The 55+ demo is not far behind with a 194.3% growth rate.

3)  The largest demographic concentration remains the 18-24 college crowd at 40.8%, but that’s down from 53.8% just six months ago.

4)  The 25-34 year population on Facebook now doubles every six months.

It's Getting Crowded In Here

It's Getting Crowded In Here

In other words, what we considered a youth market now features an emerging concentration of parents and professionals (this isn’t a problem: Facebook provides age filters on their ad targeting).

iStrategyLabs goes on to point out that anyone advertising alcohol can now reach an age-screened audience of nearly 28 million people: nearly two thirds of Facebook users.  The trick for the Budweisers and the Beams will be converting this targeting into engaging creative marketing programs that this captive but highly-particular community will embrace.  Creatives can’t simply pattern their work on a set precedent here.  Unlike the Super Bowl, we can’t look back at years of big ads to determine how we are going to enter the program with our work.

Considering how tired and uninspired so much of that work seemed last weekend, that could be a good thing.  This is a time when creatives can get really creative, reinventing platforms and experiences and messages in a medium where no one has outlined the rules yet.  Inevitably, someone will step up and earn recognition as the Lewis and Clark of this wild, unexplored territory.

That sounds like fun.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Feeding the Meter

Will we ever learn that experience does not reliably inform expectation?  Doubtful.   And so year after year, we flock to the Super Bowl telecast, abuzz with the promise of hilarious, remarkable, breathtaking advertising that rivals the game for pure entertainment value.

The Root of All Banal

The Root of All Banal

And then ten hours later, we stumble away, bleary-eyed and frustrated, like high schoolers the day after a lackluster prom, chagrined at how the reality failed to measure up to the dream.  Nonetheless, we will be back next year when we will be shocked to learn that the price of a :30 went up by two hundred thousand dollars.  Again.

That has been the Super Bowl story for the past twelve seasons.  Each year’s ads seem weaker than the last; the ideas more hamfisted, the extraordinary production less inspired.  

Part of the issue is the over-hyped platform; our insider knowledge perverts how we experience the broadcast.  When the sports pages read like the business section and we know every player’s salary, we can’t help but judge their performance through the lens of whether they’re ‘worth ten million a year.’  It changes how we watch the game.

It’s the same with Super Bowl ads.  Everyone knows thirty seconds go for three million, so it’s hard to watch any ad without questioning whether every second was really worth one hundred thousand dollars.  And yet, that misses the point.  The cost doesn’t relate to the creativity; it’s solely because so many of us are watching.  At the same time.  In today’s media world, that is incredibly unusual.  And valuable.  

Of course you want to shine in this most public of forums.  That pressure leads to the worst kind of creative sausage making: too many CMO’s sweat their investment and look for surefire ways to top the USA Today Ad-Meter.  They gin up their own version of the ‘rules’ for winning this contest: use animals, use non-verbal physical comedy, use celebrities.  And so same-ness becomes systemic.

Still, two ads managed to catch my attention through their singular voices.  Alec Baldwin’s paean endorsing television’s brain-rotting qualities ran blissfully counter-trend, a sort of anti-Newton Minnow, ending with the most subversive tagline of the year: “Hulu: An Evil Plot to Destroy the World.  Enjoy.”  I also loved the simplicity of this hugely under-rated Hyundai ad, if only for the brilliance of it’s concise close: “Win one award and suddenly everyone gets your name right.  It’s  ‘Hyundai.’  Like ‘Sunday.'”  Very fresh, though it tanked in the polls.

Oh, and Danica Patrick?  Fire your agent.  You look classless.  You know, like that thug James Harrison.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Two Newly-Emerging Dirty Words: “Paid Media.”

picture-12

A recent blog by Catalyst:SF planner Cory Treffiletti on onlineSPIN (you may have to join Media Post) raised some interesting points regarding a little-discussed aspect of the digital revolution; the proliferation of platforms offering free –or very low cost — engagement opportunities.  He challenges: “why do advertisers assume spending money is the best way to sell?”  It’s a timely and provocative thought.

 As one can always safely expect from a new media blog, he stretches the point a bit to cudgel traditional agencies (no Cory, agencies are not compensated to spend money: commissions have been gone for well over a decade), but still his rejection of solutions that assume spending money is extremely smart.  Denying that assumption forces innovation, including something he calls ‘engage and activate.’

Like most things touted as a new paradigm only made possible through digital platforms, the notion of finding solutions without big media investments actually way predates the web…and TV for that matter.  The smartest marketers have worked this way since the beginning of time.

Talk value didn’t start with DDB’s first Superbowl ad for Bud Light; PT Barnum built a fortune on it by the mid-nineteenth century.  Conversational media began long before MySpace; the Friedman sisters traded in it since the 50’s by printing reader responses as part of their syndicated columns.  And what were those Bobby Sherman 45’s stamped into the sides of Honey Comb cereal boxes but early, analogue apps?

The only difference today is the speed and depth of the interactive reach: opportunity has always been—and always will be–available to clients and marketers who view the established way of doing things as merely comfortable habit and challenge themselves to think in new ways.  As the economic crunch hammers our industry, that better mean all of us.

After all, convergence isn’t an event; it’s a mindset.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79