Rich Silverstein said at one point that the best advertising leaves some gaps for people to fill in themselves. Like a dot-to-dot game. Because connecting small points of a story with people's own aspirations, hopes, fears and beyond is what really pulls them in. They enjoy the story more because they're involved.
I thought of this when watching Re/code’s interview with Ze Frank.
The President of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures talked about why some content gets shared more than others. His take is good; that it has less to do with the crafted piece and more to do with what people will use the content for.
Or, in other words, people share something because of what it prompts them to personally express when they share it. A funny video about relationships becomes a representation of couple miscues, which applies to a lot of people. It’s not the specific miscues that are filmed, it’s what they represent.
Which is helpful because there's no mystery behind why people share Epic Split. It's an unbelievable feat.
But Epic Splits are rare.
Ze's insight helps explain the larger lot of videos, and how they can be better thought about for more sharing.
Strategy sounds great. But unless it moves things into action, what’s the point? The most important job for a planner needs to be creating ideas that are easy, clear and exciting to act on. As Ben Franklin once wrote: “well done is better than well said.”
We are all a collection of thoughts. It’s not one key outlook but rather the kaleidoscope of beliefs that make each of us unique.
I decided to write some of mine down. And what resulted was a rather ugly infographic-wordcloud-type-of-thing.
Recently I logged in to Twitter and received a promoted tweet from Amazon. The tweet said "50% off today's Deal of the Day!" I clicked. Waiting for me was a product page of great deals on a clothing brand I had previously searched. There was a 50% off deal on a t-shirt. Because I have a relationship with Amazon Prime a click or two purchased that item and shipped it to my house. I clicked back in to Twitter to resume what I was doing. The whole thing took under 45 seconds.
But if you really think about it, the most common reason people don't like an ad has little to do with creativity or the message itself; it's because it's irrelevant to them.
Consider the things largely funded by advertising: the entertainment industry, the news industry, sports broadcasting, Google. Remove advertising and many of the things we like suddenly disappear. And yet advertising comes with a small price: for the last 100 years all ad buys had to contain a certain amount of waste. Are pharma ads extremely annoying to you? That's probably because you're not interested in Cialis. But you're watching football with a lot of other people.
Take a scan across the industry and the improvements in creativity, design and marketing over the last five years are notable. While the negative souls will always say that "it's not what it used to be" the truth of the matter is that it's better. Some historic campaigns may never be topped. But many of the most viral things on the web today are great advertising ideas.
The most acute challenge the industry faces today, the area that needs the most help, the most guidance and the most focus is the part that we talk about the least: media. And fixing it can have the greatest affect on people by helping them find what they want. If advertising must exist, let's at least try harder to have it be valuable and helpful to people.
In the past media teams spent their time strategizing whether to run an ad in GQ or Esquire. Last year, 22 percent of all US ad spending was digital. This is up 19 percent from the previous year. Such volume has given rise to DSPs, or demand-side platforms, which allow advertisers to buy online campaigns more efficiently, adjust in real time according to effectiveness data, and actually use strategy to inform placement.
Today we're witnessing the staying power of TV. At the same time, we're also witnessing TV and online video merging together, which will be valuable. With TV we know reach and frequency, but not engagement, whereas with online we have data around engagement, but how well are we at documenting viewability?
Work is now being done to tie online display advertising standards to online video, which is currently that to register as "viewable" 50 percent of the ad has to be in-view of the user for one second. Why one second? Research shows that when we're on a web page we're going to make a decision about what to do with an ad--ignore, click, leave the page--in less than a second.
Digital has also been shown to drive more reach. The IAB has Nielsen research which says that moving 15 percent of a TV budget to digital can increase reach by up to six percent while decreasing the overall CPM.
I don't believe the studies that say people prefer big web ads. I do believe that if a web ad contains something interesting and relevant to people that they don't mind it as much.
Consumers have some control here. With ad settings, we can tell Google what's interesting to us. Or, more importantly, what isn't. Not into fishing, fiber & textile arts, or foreign language study (to name a few "f" choices)? Then remove them. It's reasonable to assume that more people will do this considering it's only one click in from many ads served up today.
The tools are finally arriving where advertising can be better for people. We can tailor per person: eliminate what is irrelevant and offer what is helpful. Doing this saves money for clients. It also provides insightful data into customer behavior, which can inform marketing and brand decisions, both online and offline.
Every so often it's nice to have a summary of things. A smart recap of what's happened and where things stand. Summaries are particularly helpful when we sense an overall pause in the air after a lot of frantic activity.
Patricia McDonald has written an important, and helpful, post on her blog. She talks about how the development of things--from smartphones to the social web and all that's come with them--has slowed from what it was.
Or, at least it feels that way.
But as a planning community there's been "a new consensus" that's formed over the last few years. Which is true and she's brilliantly recapped where we are and what we've learned.
So below is a summary of what she wrote, which you should read. Personally, I'd kind of like to print it and frame it for a little while.
We have come to understand some new thinking: • That brands are now built as much by what they do as by what they say. • That we live in the age of a vocal, connected consumer where peer to peer is now powerful at scale. • That ideas are used, shared and propagated in networks, not solely in agencies. • That consumers are telling us, in real time, more about what they need and want than ever before and that we can and must respond to this in real time.
We have seen that there are some flawed assumptions out there: • That a mass of consumers want to actively participate with brands--they don’t. • That the campaign is dead--it isn’t. • That it would be easy to mine and integrate social, location and brand data--it's extraordinarily difficult.
We continue to embrace some old truths that should not be forgotten: • That brands grow through scale not depth. • That most consumers, most of the time, don’t care very much about brands. • That they care, enormously, about the things they have always cared about: connecting with their loved ones, building social capital, connecting around their passions, improving themselves and their communities.
Perhaps if we all thought of ourselves in the business of creating connections, then we’d find ourselves better adapted to the new environments and possibilities of our age. And perhaps we’d begin to see how absurd are the solios that we’ve insisted on operating in. For if we wish to be effective, we are about creating connections. Connections in the mind. Connections between people, companies and brands. And connections between people and other people.
When advertising is at its best we, as the audience, get wonderfully lost in its content. We're not questioning why things are happening in an ad. We're not getting hung up on copy points. We're not asking why a regular guy is playing one-on-one with an NBA player. Rather, we are just enjoying the moment.
Like watching "Forrest Gump." We never say there's no way this could ever happen, we just root for Forrest. This is the sign of good storytelling and good production. Really good advertising wants to attract attention and present an idea but it doesn't want the audience to think too much about the ad. When the details get in the way, the ad doesn't work as well.
There's research to back this up. Robert Heath at the University of Bath has proven the effectiveness of low level processing on recall, especially when advertising carries high emotion. And a 1989 study by Robert Bornstein confirmed that the less aware we are
of the elements in advertising the better the ads are likely
to work because the viewer has less opportunity to rationally evaluate and contradict things. So we sit back, enjoy and connect.
Overall things don’t replace things. We’re a culture of more
and we see evidence of that everywhere, from Costco to our personal technology.
According to eMarketer, a third of us now report that the tablet is one of our
three favorite devices. One of our three
favorites. What is our attitude toward more technology, when do we let go
and at what point does new innovation, such as Google Glass, become accepted?
Let's start with the traditional book. There is nothing
wrong with it. In fact, there’s a connection with printed pages, a warmth and an
intimacy, that simply doesn’t exist with digital. (Early Kindles do get close.) But today digital pages are just more convenient. And yet the book will
not go away because it retains certain experiential advantages. They’re small
advantages, but enough not to wipe out the market.
When we look around there’s a sense of wonderfulness to many
lo-fi items—from the crackle of a record player to the quirkiness of a
Polaroid. It’s not mass-market wonderfulness but such charm too often disappears
with superior technology. So we don’t let go, we just limit our use and add new
Technology only vanishes when the original invention retains
no emotional charm. Like the VCR. Once the DVD arrived there was nothing
wonderful that remained with video tape. Cisco was onto this when they
discontinued the Flip. Surprising at the time, they knew smartphones would do
everything the Flip did and that nothing charming would remain, so why wait?
But we rarely commit to fully letting go. We’re a culture of
cupboards, basements and storage units. It takes little effort to hold on to the
things we still kind of like and might even use on occasion.
So now we have Google Glass...
Some think it will eventually
replace the cellphone but I see it as more of an add on.
When Altimeter Group evaluated the top technologies at SXSW
they awarded Google Glass with a “watch” designation. They cited two questions to support this: how will it work and what will the etiquette
be? The latter, I believe, is of equal importance to the former.
In Seattle, the 5 Point Cafe just banned the use of Google
Glass. They simply don’t want their clientele on film without their
knowledge. So there’s the privacy etiquette to consider.
Perhaps a good analogy is the baseball cap. It started to be
seen in the late 1940s, which isn’t all that long ago. Today they are
common and we don’t think twice about somebody “wearing a cap.” Unless they’re
wearing one at a wedding, or in church, or in a formal office setting. Indeed,
some people don’t care and wear hats everywhere, but the majority of us choose
when it’s appropriate.
Google Glass will probably go the way of the baseball cap in
two notable ways.
First, there will be times when it won’t be acceptable to
wear them. This will happen where any amount of privacy is cherished: at
the 5 Points Café, in a business meeting, celebrating Christmas eve dinner or
enjoying coffee with a friend.
Secondly, we’ll get used to them. Douglas Adams said this best
and it’s what always happens with generations and age and their relationship
with new technology and innovation:
"1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty
is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out
3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the
natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know
it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be
Every day you should have some laughter, you should spend some time in thought and you should have your emotions moved to tears of joy or appreciation. If you do that, Jimmy V said, you will have a wonderful life. Indeed, we are all built with both the ability and the need to move our heart, mind and soul in ways that make life richer.
I believe that more of this should come through in our work.
Many brands pick an emotion and stay there. Jack In The Box brings humor, Uniqlo embraces irreverence, Southwest is always fun. This, of course, is a proven way to go and is often a solution that can pay dividends for years.
Another way to go is to work at varying emotional speeds. It's made possible when a brand stands on very high ground and allows marketing to explore the natural range of human emotion within that ground. VW has been re-focused around "the people's car," which is a nice example of this.
A second example of this is Expedia whose "Find Yours" campaign from 180/LA began with some joy and is now sharing a different side of travel with the powerful message of "strength"...
Varying emotional speed is a beautiful form of marketing. It's harder to find. It's much more difficult to do. Yet it appreciates, perhaps more so than other strategies, that on the other end of the product is a person and that people have days where they laugh, they cry and they have some thought.
Doesn't it seem like brands who operate at different emotional speeds feel as if there's people like us working there as opposed to just advertisers? I think so.
At the end of this nice piece on Charles and Ray Eames there's mention of the way the pair looked at design together. Or, as they called it, way it should be-ness.
"If something is really 'well designed' the idea of it having 'been designed' wouldn't come up at all."
Isn't that good? Way it should be-ness.
This can be found in the best advertising as well. We know when we encounter it because we get wonderfully lost in the moment, not thinking about why it's happening, not judging its composition and naturally believing that the sponsor of the ad is qualified to say what they're saying. Research backs up how successful this can be.