To Activate Video Content, Stop Treating It Like Broadcast

You see it again and again on corporate YouTube channels: a random smattering of videos, often with different tones and themes, none with any significant number of views. That’s usually because their channels function as a parking lot for whatever video content they have on hand. Hey, it’s free, what’s there to lose?

Opportunity for starters. As the world’s second largest search engine with a reported three billion searches per month, YouTube may be a ridiculously crowded platform, but it’s the premiere destination for anyone looking for video-based communication. And companies should be there because people are looking…


But companies shouldn’t be there simply with recycled broadcast spots. Digital video works 180º differently than broadcast; instead of being intentionally general to reach 500,000 people, digital video narrowcasts to reach the right 5,000 people. The point is to target an ideal audience (or audiences), customize our story messages to engage them, and communicate as specifically and singularly as we can, hoping to earn their attention by speaking directly to their wants, needs, and interests.

Audiences are selfish.

If you grew up in the broadcast era, that’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s definitely reality. The digital environment empowers everyone to select programming they want to watch and avoid whatever they don’t. As a result, we each create our own networks around our own interests. This doesn’t mean there’s no place for corporate messages, it simply means we must adapt them to fit the environment. The more we find ways to align our corporate wants and needs with the wants and needs of a specific audience, the more our messages resonate. And the more our audience will share that content with like-minded people across their own networks, expanding our ideal audience for us. Simply put, the more we embrace narrowcast, the more success we’ll have with our digital video content.

And the less likely we’ll be to have meager view counts on our YouTube channels.


unsplash-logoFrank Okay

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.


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

Brands and “Authenticity”: When the Hackneyed Becomes Crucial

If you read a strategic brief at any point over the past five years, you read the word “authentic.” Whether yogurt, beer, or casual wear, brands fell over themselves in their rush to assert their ‘authenticity.’ Frankly, most protested too much and overuse diminished the word’s impact.

But this week, GoDaddy, the purveyor of web addresses that spent its early years lobbing embarrassingly sexist and sophomoric ads on the Super Bowl, did something genuinely authentic: they pulled their web-hosting services from the white supremacist site The Daily Stormer. It was a strong, very public move and truly embodied authenticity.

But that’s not how the story read Monday morning on Facebook…

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Where The Wild Things Are Today

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps you too share my sinking suspicion that all this AI, all this data and machine learning, will ultimately create little more than the world’s most brilliantly optimized classified ads.

Oh they’ll be effective ads—remarkably so. They will forge an unprecedented level of tactical and transactional effectiveness. They will optimize the context of a wide variety of consumer journeys, they will weight the messaging hierarchy, they will include nearly infinite personalization integrated directly into the consumer experience.

They will do all these amazing, innovative, unheard of things every minute of every hour without ever taking a sick day or leaving for a new opportunity.

But they won’t fire human imaginations with the white hot power of pure delight. Continue reading

Why Italian Lingerie Makes Me Nervous

I see what you did with that subject line.

A while back, my wife wanted to replace some underwear she liked that she bought out of town. So I found it on the web and placed the order. Good news? Problem solved. Odd news? Now, everyday, a new email from Cosabella arrives in my inbox.

There are certainly worse kinds of spam, but none that make me quite as uneasy.

Because I’m not really getting these emails from Cosabella, I’m getting them from Albert.

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It’s no surprise that a digital marketing publication like ClickZ would release a study asserting today’s consumers are less focused on ads than content. While it makes me worry for future generations, there’s no doubt the Kardashian freakshow moves a lot of merchandise with their tweets and posts.

The ClickZ report includes this particularly aggressive claim: influencer marketing generates $6.50 for every dollar spent.

ClickZ claims a 600% ROI from Influencer Marketing.

While that number seems inflated, there’s no doubt this is an effective platform. Influencers provide direct access to specific audiences unreachable with other media. People prefer to hear from consumers they trust rather than companies. And marketers don’t have to produce anything themselves. Win, win, win!


They’re influencers. And your opinions can be theirs.

However, even as this report came out last week, the FTC announced it had sent letters warning 90 Instagram influencers that they must disclose all paid posts, whether that payment came in cash, gifts or free products. The Commission specifically stated that just appending posts with #sp for ‘sponsored post’ wasn’t enough; they want disclosure at the top, above the “More” button.

Two things about this seem odd. First, the FTC sent actual letters? Isn’t that adorably old school?

But more to the point, the letters failed to spell out any penalties. This second point is crucial; historically, the government has preferred to target companies, not individuals. Two years ago, Kim Kardashian made posts promoting the morning sickness pill Diglecis (seriously, who names these drugs?), without divulging they were paid posts. That neatly sidestepped the mandatory publishing of the lengthy risks and contraindications disclosures. The pharma company Duchesnay USA, not Ms. Kardashian, got off with just a warning.

While I’m sure the wording was very stern, that was it; no fine, no nothing.

Further, advertising watchdog Truth In Advertising Inc. filed a complaint to the FTC last year citing over 100 disclosure-regulation violations for Kardashian-Jenner family posts. But nothing happened, nothing changed, and its naive to think it will. When you get famous via a sex tape released by your Mom, you’re not easily cowed into submission.

Yes, many consumers recognize that celebrity brand mentions don’t come for free. In fact, paid influence should be a $1 billion business this year on Instagram alone. With no reason to think this growth will slow, the FTC will have to step up and do something to level the playing field.

The current administration may favor a hands off approach, but given the pervasiveness of social platforms, deregulation can quickly devolve into deception.