Creativity Will Save Advertising. Again.

I know, I know–it’s too late; advertising’s already dead. Digital/social/experiential/big data killed it…

The only problem is this constant, dire drumbeat sounds juicy, it creates alarm, but it’s mostly just opinion or self-promotion. It’s clickbait.

If you want facts, follow the money. In the most recent case, digital entertainment powerhouse Netflix bid $300m to buy Regency Outdoor Advertising.

That’s right, the disruptive, disintermediating, digital content giant wants to buy a billboard company.

Their motivation is fascinating. Netflix noticed that big outdoor imagery stokes social sharing. People posted lots of shots of their “Netflix is a joke” campaign to Instagram which promoted their comedy line-up.

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In other words, people share great creative.

These days, $300m might not sound like an earth-shattering number, but it represents the largest acquisition in Netflix history. Imagine; a leading digital giant offering to pay one third of a billion dollars on a oft-declared dying medium…a smart company wouldn’t do that unless they knew it worked.

And that’s a fact.

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This post originally appeared in Screen Magazine.

Taking Marketing Beyond Advertising

Today’s unprecedented access to information, demand for transparency, and empowerment of social recommendation speed the transition from mass marketing and toward more relevant and personalized communications: in short, digital video content.

Advertising improves selling, but video content improves communication. Of all kinds. Which in turn, improves sales. That’s why it’s where marketing is moving.

Make no mistake; I love great advertising. And great advertising still builds brands. But it’s no longer the only way. Because it’s not just brands that need building; businesses and organizations of every kind need to reach audiences with compelling messages.

So there’s always another story to tell.

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Bloomberg Powers Up Immersive Content to a New Level

In marketing, ‘content’ should not be a noun, and certainly never an adjective. Great content is an action verb; it doesn’t just sit there, it drives you to take action: to like, to comment, to share. Great content makes you engage.

This wonderfully imaginative content from Bloomberg does just that incredibly well. To promote a number of articles they published on the serious challenges brick and mortar retail faces today, Bloomberg developed an old school, 8 bit looking web-based video game called American Mall. The challenge? Keep a shopping mall running and profitable in an environment where every challenge seems stacked against you.

It is an absorbing task and only becomes more engrossing the more you play and explore. Most amazingly, it creates a real sense of empathy for the challenges people in this sector face today.

Play the game here

Enjoy your exploration and struggle but know that you will not win. That seems to be Bloomberg’s point, though it’s not one I entirely share. Still, when you do fail, take note of the final nemesis laughing at your demise; it’s just another wonderful detail in this clever and exceptional piece of content.

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PS: A special thank you to my relentlessly curious and marvelously informed friend and colleague, Dr. Kate Sieck, for sending this link my way.

“Video Content: Why”: a Free e-Book(let)

That’s right, free. With no purchase.

Twenty-two pages of facts, links, and thinking on the many ways video has evolved from a selling platform to the preferred communications platform.

Our world has changed. Smart companies have commissioned research to learn exactly how so I’ve been reading what they shared, sifting through the hyperbole and exaggeration endemic to the blogging world, all to catalogue the best thinking on how to leverage online video.

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I want to share this thinking with anyone and everyone who may be interested. Download it, share it, use it however it may help; I simply ask that if you have feedback or input on how to make it better, share your thoughts. Our digital world is iterative which makes constant improvement a real possibility.

As I post this, we stand halfway between the end of Hanukkah and Christmas day; consider this my ecumenical Holiday gift to you. Read it in good health. And all the best for the New Year.

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PS: Find other downloadable links on this page.

Video: Evolving Beyond Selling

So yesterday, I was lucky enough to present for the West Michigan Content Strategy Meetup’s first-ever lunch and learn webinar.

Of course, being that it was ‘first ever’ and involved warring Apple and Google technology platforms, it was a bit of a car wreck; dropped signals, video blackouts, etc. But happily, like all things digital and video, you can fix it in post. So we did.

My thanks to my old friend Scott Smith and the charming and redoubtable Laura Bergells for making this a terrific experience, technical difficulties and all.

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A Pre Thanksgiving/Black Friday Shopping Message

According to data from Adobe, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday 2016 all set records for online sales, totaling over $5.5 billion. Black Friday remains the monster; last year, Friday online sales topped the three billion mark for the first time ever, reaching $3.34 billion: an increase of nearly 22% over 2015.

In bricks and mortar, ShopperTrak reported a 1% drop in foot traffic from 2015 over the Thanksgiving weekend, but Black Friday itself didn’t dip. The manic early morning shopping rush has clearly become a new holiday tradition; retailers predict it will hold strong this year even as they foresee another 5%+ growth in online sales.

Retailers revel in this reorientation of our Holidays toward mass consumption. But the Forest Hill Church in South Carolina takes a different perspective. Last year, on December 3, their in-house creative media team posted this “Christmas Presents” video to Facebook…

It’s not particularly sophisticated or slickly produced–all the actors are either churchgoers or staff–but the idea itself struck a resonant, relatable chord. Over the past year, it’s earned well over 6.3 million views and been shared almost 93,000 times. The idea of gift wrapping the everyday gifts we take for granted is simple and powerful. And joyful; for a non-actor, director/congregant Matt Nunn delivers a very likable performance as the man who wakes up with so much gratitude.

This is a brilliant example of relevant video content and clearly, Forest Hill is very savvy with multimedia. They also have a great looking website that boasts lots of content. They’re definitely doing it right.

First and foremost, by starting with a smart, relatable idea. Well done.

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Thanks to my friend and constant student of culture, Neilan Tyree, for finding and sharing this video on Facebook.

Why Video Content? It’s Simple Neuroscience.

Seriously. Our brains process video imagery differently than text.

While researching this piece, a number of remarkable statistics popped up repeatedly. A particularly amazing one claimed we process visuals 600,000x faster than text. The problem is, like so many things on the internet, this claim wasn’t corroborated by any credible sources. Actually, they were compellingly argued against here. Oh well, live and Google. And Google again. Repeatedly.’

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Five Reasons Why Every Brand Should Be Using Video…Presented on Video

Okay, so it’s a wee bit longer than sixty seconds, but the points remain…

For anyone who prefers written lists, here they are:

  1. Four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Source: Animoto
  2. Viewers recall over 90% of a message after watching it on video, as opposed to 10% from reading text. Source: insivia
  3. Embedding video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%. Source: Eyeview  (Self-imposed time constraints prevented me from sharing the other big number: video makes your site 53% more likely to show up on Google’s page one.)
  4. Visual content–particularly video–is forty times more likely to get shared.  Source: Buffer
  5. Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.  Source: Aberdeen Group

As you may have noticed, I’m particularly fond of number five. That’s basically a mic drop for video…

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Photo credit: Jakob Owens

Brand Overextension: #WSJfail on Facebook

When The Wall Street Journal promoted leaders to oversee their ethics and standards in 2013, managing editor Gerard Baker sent out a memo which included this phrase:

“Everything we do at Dow Jones is underpinned by our striving to meet the most elevated standards of reporting and editing. It is the foundation of the trust our readers place in us.”

Precisely. This venerable institution enjoys a richly deserved reputation for journalistic excellence. Even the President wouldn’t dare to refer to its trusted reporting as “Fake news.” And yet, today this blurb appeared in my Facebook feed:

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Reread that opening sentence.

It’s nothing but a sponsored post on Facebook but take a look at that opening sentence…

Even the smallest filler item in a weekend supplement of the Journal would never open and close a topic sentence with a redundant phrase.

But that’s what happened here.

And that’s the danger of having a brand that stands for ‘elevated standards’ outsource branding, in this case, to some junior content writer at Facebook. In fairness, that person may well have been working against deadline on thirty similar items so perhaps this one just fell off their radar.

But this is how kingdoms are lost; for want of a proverbial nail.

Or in this case, one more re-write.

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