Contextual Dissonance

Contextual Dissonance – When clearly commercial content is offered during a time when I’m not in commercial mode, it just feels off.

John Battelle nails that feeling you get when you notice a brand trying a bit too hard to insert themselves into a conversation. To advertise at scale on the web brands resort to algorithms. But trying to algorithmically insert an ad unit into a newsfeed [rarely] [ever] [works].

Conversations require you to listen and respond. If you aren’t really listening, you’re just talking at someone. That is the value of a media property, they aggregate an audience around a topic and host the tone and theme of that conversation. Because they play the host, they are that much better able to match the advertiser to their audience.

This matchmaking is why advertising on a media property is so much more effective than on a social media site. For several years the conversation has moved away from media sites to social media sites and the advertisers followed. But I feel the pendulum is swinging back the other way as brands realize that they are more effective in getting their message across on media sites which share their audience and interests.

This is not to say advertising on social media sites is in danger. There will always be room for diversions of entertaining snippets sprinkled throughout. But substantive marketing pieces that inform engaged readers will only work on vertically-focused media sites.

Solve by Entertaining

Love this! Use technology to turn ordinary, functional objects into something that’s fun and interactive. Urban environments offer so many opportunities to shine a spotlight on individuals which can make someone’s day.

Also, the obligatory “making of” video below.

It’s all part of an advertising campaign for the Smart car, a brand that promotes “urban joy” and safety.

Facebook is Madison Avenue’s new Yahoo

Ever since it began selling ads 10 years ago, Facebook has been combating doubts about its value to marketers. Search engines like Google offer advertisers a direct link to people seeking out particular products, while television remains the dominant way to reach a mass audience. Now, Facebook claims, it can provide the best of both.

How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil, New York Times

Facebook stock sailed past analyst expectations last month and its stock hit an all time high. It looks like brand advertisers are coming on board now that Facebook has the audience to fulfill the promise of hitting targeted demographics, at scale.

This should be cause for concern at Yahoo (not mentioned in the NYT article) who was the traditional online goto for brand advertisers. The market has since spoken.

FB vs. YHOO stock price

World Cup Time!

Next week the world’s largest sporting event kicks off in Brazil when the host plays Croatia on June 12th. To get you in the mood, here’s a montage of amazing trick shots put together as part of an ad campaign by McDonald’s. Many dismiss the shots as fake but the agency behind the project assures us that there was no CGI used in the making.

And here’s the latest from Beats, a little heavier, taking itself more seriously. Note the prominence of the iPhones in the commercial.

Cup Noodle celebrating the Blue Samurai from Japan.

Oh, if you’re looking for a good mobile-friendly site to take with you to the bar, check out Tap In, it’s quite well done.

Native Advertising Brilliance

The folks at Huge are to be commended on a truly brilliant native advertising campaign. Hired by the makers of President Cheese, they were stuck with a way to somehow drum up social media interest in a gooey wheel of stinky cheese. What they came up with will be talked about in hush three-martini lunches up and down Madison Avenue for years.

The client was nervous, this was their first foray into the wild, wooly world of the twitter. Corporate lawyers were all over them, pouring over every syllable. The head cheese at President Cheese demanded review of all creative, ensuring everything stayed on message. The campaign, carefully honed after months of travel up and down the corporate approval ladder was, “The Art of Cheese”

Each of the 140 characters were hand-crafted and chiseled to exacting specifications. Plurals and Singulars became the topic of weekend off-sites. Active or passive voice? How do we capture the tone. We want to be friendly but not too casual. @DrFNFurter was studied closely and discussed at length. The result?

2014-05-23 at 1.40.15 pm

The brilliance of the mundane. Each part of the tweet and embedded image is engineered to be ignored. This tweet was designed to fail. Two favorites? Perfect! Too much attention and all their hard-earned work would have been wasted.

Knowing that a twitter account with a less than 300 followers would get lost in the wind, the agency set into motion the crucial second stage of their viral campaign. Buying placement on a visible tech blog, they took out a native advertising placement that would allow them to weave a story of pity and woe that would unleash the full sarcastic fury of the internet wilds.

Social Media Experts at Work
Social Media Experts at Work

The story would talk about how hard people worked to come up with their lonely tweet. People would point and laugh at the lead image showing how serious people can look while staring at rando twitter profiles with a background image screaming, “$450 crack party”

Choice quotes would get pulled out and shared,

Social media is definitely perceived like you’re just dicking around on the internet all day, and I do a fair amount of that,

and

I think that if people give you a hard time for it, it’s really because they’re more jealous that they don’t have a fun job.

All this additional attention would turn a boring tweet blipped out to 227 followers into a focal point of conversation. President Cheese and the Art of Cheese would be the hot topic of discussion. Laugh all you want but that tweet screen-captured above that had only two favs? It’s on fire!

Commercial Sync

It used be one of the lowest forms of selling out when a musician signed over their work to a brand campaign. Such was the stigma, Nike was sued for using The Beatles’ Revolution in one of their commercials. With declining revenues for recorded music, touring and merch remain the main sources of income for a working band. For older musicians that have family and want to stay close to home, Commercial Sync, or composing music for a brand campaign, can be a lucrative alternative.

A long way from the earworm jingles of the 60’s and 70’s, television advertising has become a way to not only earn the equivalent of months of work for 30 seconds of art but also a way for relatively unknown artists to break into the charts. Apple introduced America to Feist with the launch of their iPod Nano. It’s good money for the bands and if the product is right, playing back up to a brand can actually augment the band’s image and their association with a cool brand.

In the same way that Dissolve held a mirror up to the use of stock video in today’s commercials, Canadian musician Jon Lajoie has laid it all out plain as day in his video Please Use This Song. Brands are the patrons of the 21st Century.

Thanks to @jr conlin for the pointer

The story behind the tweet

What came off as a completely natural off-cuff quip of the moment was actually the product of a well-scripted social media command center prepared to jump on the opportunity. Imagine a room with representation from marketing, creative, legal, and the “VP of Cookies” huddled around a table on Super Bowl Sunday, laptops open, ready to pounce on the latest conversation.

It’s all about catching the wave before it crests and surfing in on the momentum. One well-timed tweet netted 15,000 retweets and 8,000 new followers of @oreo on twitter and 20,000 likes on Facebook.

Generic Brand Video

If you’re a stock video company, what’s the best way to get your footage in front of future customers? Create a viral video that will be passed around by marketers and advertisers that license stock videos for their advertising.

This Is a Generic Brand Video from Dissolve on Vimeo.

Dissolve has done just that with their Generic Brand Video which brilliantly skewers the current state of brand placement videos today. Taking it’s inspiration from a McSweeney’s post, Dissolve had a voice-over actor with a Marlboro-man drawl narrate over a series of beautifully non-descript clips, poking fun at every tech, pharma, energy, financial, or auto commercial you’ve seen in the past three years.

Fast Company pulls in a few in for comparison.

Getty Images Opens Up

Getty Images added embed icons to 35 million photos in their collection. Not all images are available for embed (look for the icon). Images are for non-commercial use only and you need to use their embed code which adds the frames you see below.


Unable to close the barn door, Getty material was finding its way online into Google Image search which crawled sites that had properly licensed the images. The explosion of social media has accelerated secondary use via “right-click/save” so this was largely Getty reading the writing on the wall.

Getty Images is smart to do this. By providing a superior image search to Google and a simple way for people to use their images, they gain control of their assets again and wrap some marketing around its use, taking advantage of free distribution that was already happening. All the embeds point back to gettyimages.com so it’s great for SEO and exposure for the vast selection they have available. Getty Images has also said they will collect data on where the photos are used to improve their service which adds an important crowd sourcing to their ranking algorithms. Finally, buried in the Terms of Service is, “the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.” The Nieman Journalism Lab ponders where Getty is going with this,

Aha! The data collected could have internal use (measuring what kinds of images are popular enough to invest in more stock photos, for instance). But they could also help with those ads. Imagine a day, five years from now, with Getty photo embeds all over the web, when they flip the switch — ads everywhere. Maybe there’s a photo equivalent of a preroll video ad and you now have to click to view the underlying image. Or a small banner on the bottom 90px of the photo.

And imagine your website has used a lot of Getty embeds over the years — enough that Getty can actually sell ads specifically targeting your website, using all that data it’s gathered. Or imagine there are enough Getty embeds that it could sell ads only on photos of Barack Obama, or only photos about Cajun music, or only photos about restaurants in Kansas City. You can start to see the potential there. Think of how many YouTube videos were embedded on other websites before Google ever started putting ads on them.

Embedded widgets used to be all the rage but they fell out of fashion as social networks became the place to share social objects. Getty is late to the game unless everybody gets sick of Facebook and fires up their own WordPress site. Notice how the sharing icons for the Getty Images are only for Twitter and Tumblr, the most open of all social networks.

Finally, what about all the folks that check the box on Flickr allowing their photos to be licensed by Getty Images like Phoenix Wang who took the photo above? Their works will now be used freely to help market the Getty service. On the plus side, clicks thru on the image will bring up options to license hi-res images for a fee so it’s not a total loss for the Flickr crowd. I wonder if the inclusion of the Tumblr share icon was a condition of including the Flickr photos in this deal?

The threat of ads running in the footer of the embed makes the service a non-starter for me but if you do want to use these images (which really are stunning), note that you can muck around with the width/height values in the embed code to change the dimensions of the image as I did below. It’s also possible to cover up the footer entirely but that would probably be frowned upon by the folks at Getty.