Hurry–There’s Still Time To Buy Ping Pong Balls Before The Fourth

Here’s a little video inspiration for your Independence Day celebrations … courtesy of some observant pyromaniacs in Germany apparently.

That’s right–you saw it here first: ping pong balls are flammable as hell. And if one is good, then clearly, one thousand are just that much more exponentially good-er. So if you can’t get to a fireworks tent, at least find a sporting goods store.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Television Commercials Aren’t Dead. They’ve Just Gone New Places. Amazing New Places…

Remember this spot for Cheerios? It first aired this past month and due solely to its casting of an interracial couple, incensed a disturbing number of bigot trolls, whose inflammatory comments forced General Mills to shut down comments on their YouTube page (but, admirably, not back down and pull the spot–way to be, General…).

It’s nothing more than a TV commercial. The same kind we’ve been watching for decades. The same kind certain pundits have deemed dead in today’s interactive age.

Television is far from dead. The numbers prove we watch more of it than ever. And as this spot demonstrates, no other medium has the breadth of reach or emotional impact of moving pictures and sound. No, while television may be many things, it is certainly not dead.

That said, television has definitely been transformed, mostly by the participatory web. A tiny but vocal smattering of racists attacked this sweet, simple story, using the coward’s cloak of online anonymity even as millions of people reacted normally, with emotions running the gamut from delight to benign neglect.

But those prejudicial attacks spurred another small but vocal group—Michael David Murphy and Alyson West from Atlanta, Georgia–who decided it was time to answer that ugliness with a showcase for love and family. They created a Tumblr  called “We Are The 15 Percent”: a reference to the 2008 census which noted that interracial couples make up 14.9% of all marriages in the United States. Michael and Alyson’s blog invites interracial couples and families to send in their photos as a counterpoint to this sort of idiotic bile. In just a few short weeks, they already have over 2500 submissions. And with national coverage from outlets like MSNBC, those numbers should continue to swell.

The photos are beautiful. The movement is affirming. The reach of television empowered by Web 2.0 is a marvelous thing to behold.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Brand Communities, Recommendation, and Going To School On The Other Guy’s Putt

If two golfers reach the green around the same time, neither wants to putt first. That’s because it’s always instructive to watch the other player’s ball roll; it susses out hidden breaks and the speed of the green.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonThat behavior is not unique to golf; shoppers look to learn from their peers as well. As part of their participation in the Consumer Electronics Show last week, PR giant Weber Shandwick released a study that found the greatest influence on electronics purchase decisions comes from consumer reviews, not professional ones. In fact, electronics buyers value consumer reviews over editorial reviews by a more than three to one margin. Perhaps more importantly, they found that on average, buyers checked eleven consumer reviews before committing to a purchase.

All of this merely confirms the power of recommendation. As Paul Rand, President of Omnicom word of mouth shop Zócalo Group, asserts quite regularly about buyers; “92% say that the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or expert is the single most powerful influencer of their purchase decision.”

So it only makes sense for marketers to leverage this phenomenon and encourage reviews. But sales are a competition so there’s always someone looking to bring performance enhancing drugs to the race. Last Summer, Forbes ran an article concerning authors who anonymously pen self-promoting book reviews, or worse, slams on the work of rival authors. Around the New Year, the Huffington Post ran a piece on view count inflation on YouTube music video counts and a subsequent adjustment in those numbers.

People innately seek the opinions of others they respect and trust. And well tended brand communities provide forums for sharing those opinions. Weber Shandwick’s  report even closes with suggestions on how marketers can protect their recommendations’ legitimacy so they stay effective. But as long as there is money involved, some dirtbag will try to Lance the system and scam some bucks.

Yet another reason why authenticity is such a valued commodity these days.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Hungry Kids In The Crib Pocket Like It’s Hot…Talk About Finding Your Audience

Dennis Ryan, Advertising4,240,041 views.  That’s the number racked up after three weeks for this YouTube posting of the “Pocket Like It’s Hot” video featuring Snoop Dogg for Hot Pockets. This shameless remix of his hit “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is infectiously repetitive, clinging to the synapses like mental velcro.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this three and a half minute long Judah Friedlander-directed clip is how it features a long-standing but heretofore unacknowledged audience for this microwaved meal: stoned young adults. A far more expected TV spot features young adults too, but without the recognizable overlay of ‘weekend evening use occasion.’ Whether all this means parent company Nestlé has finally rolled over to accept the PG13 reality of their target market or that they’re simply exploiting an opportunity to gain online buzz (see what I did there?), remains to be seen.

In the meantime, just try to shake this hook from your head.  POCKET LIKE IT’S HOT, POCKET LIKE IT’S HOT…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Internet Famous

Becoming internet famous was not an option a decade ago.  Not really.  But today, if you tweet hard enough and hilarious enough, you can get a sitcom.  Or at least a Klout score in the forties.  Same if you really know how to work Facebook or Pinterest or YouTube or even Etsy–all of these communities have leaders and shining stars.  Social media empowers a certain kind of meritocracy.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonBut sometimes, people are funny simply because they can’t help themselves. And during this long, loud, relentlessly contentious election season of red asshat vs. blue asshat, I so appreciate that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Billy Idol Got It Right: With This, and Essentially Every Blog Post, I Am Dancing With Myself

Check out this infographic, swiped from those innovative wags over at  It simply serves up widely-available data about our daily web interactions, but viewed in the collective–with pretty pictures–it’s staggering.  Three years ago, I used to blow clients minds with the simple fact that everyday, people upload 9,200 hours of video to YouTube, a figure made more staggering since there are only 8,760 hours in a year.

Today, that number stands at 864,000 hours of video.  Or damn near 100 years worth of kitties and bad karaoke uploaded every day.  The ease of posting from your cell phone makes this inevitable.

On the upside, I guess I don’t have to sweat my punctuation and word choice so much: with two million blog posts launching every day, who’s gonna notice?

Anyway, enjoy.  Or get very scared.  Or, far more likely, go find some other distraction.  The net’s lousy with them…

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson, Minneapolis, Chicago

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


You Can Waste A Ton of Time In Sixty Seconds…

On Monday, MSNBC’s Technolog posted the graphic below which outlines exactly what happens out there on that World Wide Web every blessed minute of the day…on average of course.  Even a casual perusal can be kind of mind blowing: Google answers nearly 700,000 search queries, which is roughly the same number of status updates posted on Facebook each minute.  Over 168 million emails are sent, 20,000 new posts go up on Tumblr and over 13,000 hours of music stream over Pandora.  And beyond the limits of minutes, over 110 new pictures posted to Flickr every second!

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Of course, things really get crazy when you convert these minutes to full days.  Or god forbid, actual years.  Do the math on YouTube video uploads: if there are over twenty-five hours of video added every minute, that means there are over 1,500 hours each hour and a whopping 36,000 hours every day, which equates to well over four years worth of video. Every day.  Good luck keeping up with that.

Thanks to the ease of content generation, the explosion of social sharing and the basic premise of Web 2.0, content isn’t just King, it’s exponentially ubiquitous.  Or some other expression that means really, really freaking massive.

Damn internet, you scary big!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

What Agencies Can Learn From JuicyStar07

I spend a lot of time talking to my daughters about the importance of making things rather than simply consuming things. Anyone can buy stuff; it’s far more interesting to create something–a poem, a drawing, a video.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingBut maybe I have it wrong. Because one of the biggest categories of User Generated Content on YouTube is the “Haul” video: clips of mostly younger teen girls showing off the merchandise and deals they bring home from every shopping trip. The biggest player in this genre is JuicyStar07, also known as eighteen year old Blair Fowler. For the past three years, she’s uploaded videos chronicling her every purchase and every shopping concern from her unapologetically pink bedroom.  She is a bona fide web celeb but in her words “I’m just a girl who loves anything beauty, fashion, girly, glitzy, and pink!”

Now if you’re at all inclined to middle-aged crankiness like me, watching those videos might sound as appealing as taking a belt sander to your teeth. Who in their right mind would want to watch a teeny bopper prattle on into her laptop’s camera about lipgloss and miniskirts?

Of course, you’d think that. And you’d be a know-nothing idiot. Because as inexplicable as that content might seem to you, it’s earned Blair nearly 136 million views in less than three years. Given YouTubes ad revenue sharing plan, that pays off nicely. But the benefits don’t stop at fame and fortune. Blair leads a loosely-affiliated army of consumers with incredible buying power: she has sold out products with a single tweet. So merchants send her products just hoping she will review them and create demand. JuicyStar07 earns fame, fortune and free stuff. And yes, she recently hired a publicist.

With no investment beyond time and passion, Blair has gathered a narrow but powerful community that shares her enthusiasm for shopping and wields enormous influence on her market. It’s enough to make the rest of us feel like we’ve led a lifetime of hapless slackerhood.

That is a testament to the power of community. And Web 2.0. And enthusiasm. All things any agency can bring to bear for their clients.

Good for you JuicyStar07.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


Arianna Huffington: Canned Commentary at the CMA National Convention

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingSo early on this wet Toronto morning, in one of the cavernous convention halls of the Westin Harbour Castle, the Canadian Marketing Association presented its opening speaker–Arianna Huffington.  We were all really looking forward to it–she’s very smart and one of the early and best drivers of new media since launching her very successful Huffington Post in 1995. Her keynote topic was “Where Is New Media Going?” and she spoke for nearly an hour but in all candor, the best part of her presentation was trying to place her remarkably non-specific accent. She is very likable, warming up the Canadian crowd with hockey jokes, but nothing was funnier than how she pronounced “Canucks”.  Somehow she made it three syllables long and worked a ‘y’ into the middle.

But despite her charm and obvious leadership position in the industry, her comments tread well trod ground: the key to everything is engagement, blogging and Wiki editing has taken off because self expression is the new entertainment. And trust is the new black, with a reference to the hysteria around Balloon Boy.

She added some facts: we send 140 million tweets and watch two million YouTube videos everyday, and every month, we spend a staggering 700 billion minutes on Facebook.

All true, but all rather familiar.  And from someone who introduced a whole new media platform based on curating the latest and best content, oddly ironic.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


So We Had This Conversation About The Future of Advertising…

Last night, I participated in an event sponsored by the good people of MIMA–the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association. Truth be told, I was filling in for Matt Howell, Arnold’s Global Chief Digital Officer who himself, was filling in for Andrew Keller, Cripsin Porter & Bogusky’s youthful CEO. Each in turn, had to bail on the commitment, with Matt forced out Sunday evening.  Which I guess makes me the equivalent of human spackling compound.  No matter, it was a hill of fun.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThe evening closed this season’s Conversations About The Future of Advertising speaker series which are ably hosted by Tim Brunelle, President of MIMA and CEO of his own company, Hello Viking. Given his last minute scramble, Tim ginned up the notion of pairing a creative guy with a client and so he recruited me and General Mills’ Director of Interactive Marketing Jim Cuene to fill those roles. The space was great, the audience participation was lively and all in all, it was a very cool evening. It also provided a great introduction to the event sponsor MCAD: the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Truth be told, we didn’t really conclude anything about the future, but Jim told some very interesting stories about his client-side experiences in the space. Among other anecdotes, he spoke about the value of iterating multiple creative concepts on line and seeing which ones payoff–an idea very close to my heart. We also spent time talking about the role of filmed content as online placement knocks down the cost of the media. Candidly, this emerging discipline largely motivated my move to Olson: the agency’s community/social anthropology-orientation makes us particularly well-suited to identifying the right people in the right place with a message/experience they’ll find relevant and worthwhile.

That’s particularly important given this ugly reality that YouTube admitted recently: only 30% of their videos generate 99% of their views.  Think about that: less than a third of all their vast years of video content account for nearly all of their views.  That absolutely obliterates the general 80-20 yardstick of the Pareto Principle.

Which ultimately means that the Future of Advertising will not stray far from the way advertising has always operated: the best idea will always win. The freshest creative voice or the most surprising brand experience will continue to earn our hearts and minds far more than the latest technological gimcrackery. Technology provides context but ideas motivate.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

By the way, I did intentionally use the old timey word ‘gimcrack’–we call that ‘irony.’