Further Proof Your Brands Need a Content Plan

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson, AdvertisingOver two thirds of the American population spent March watching 46.6 billion online videos.

If those numbers from comScore don’t stagger you, you’re not doing the math.

That equals an average of 250 videos, per person, in one month.  Granted, the Polar Vortex made it very conducive to staying inside and vegging out, but still.

Now combine that with the fact that while TV viewing has barely slipped these past three years (down seven minutes to four hours and 38 viewing minutes/day), time spent with digital media grew by 74% to equal five hours and nine minutes/day.

So while digital usage is up, TV remains a huge platform. In other words, our consumption of filmed content is only increasing as consumers spend more time daily on multiple screens.

Brands need to be on every screen in contextually relevant ways. Which means most of us have a lot of work to do…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Reassessing The Cost of “Free” Media

Last night, as I got off the plane and walked through the F concourse in Minneapolis, I checked Facebook and learned the Bulls beat Miami to take game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. Given the ongoing sadness that is the Twins, there wasn’t anyone to share that news with so I just posted ‘Likes’ to every friend who mentioned the win in their status.

Thinking back to two weeks earlier, at that same concourse in the same situation via the same media, I learned a Seal team had assassinated Osama Bin Laden.  And the realization that the Facebook platform had worked it’s way into my life on a fundamental level hit me like a ton of bricks.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingOr maybe like a ton of impressions.  According to comScore’s Ad Metrix, Facebook delivered nearly one third of the 1.1 trillion display ads on America’s internet during Q1 2011, leading all online publishers.  By any measure, that’s a dominating advertising platform and it speaks to the utility and fun of this ‘free’ opt-in medium. But Facebook’s ‘free’ differs significantly from television’s.

I first became aware of the ‘cost’ of free media in the early 70’s when my Dad explained that the reason I had to go to Richie Tanguay’s house to watch Ultraman was that they had this thing called ‘cable.’ They paid to watch TV, which allowed them to watch some channels that didn’t even have any commercials at all. Ours was free because ours had commercials.

But Facebook’s free contract with users runs far deeper than the flood of display ads.  Facebook owns yottabytes of personal data on all of us: where we live, what we like, who we follow, even the very photos we post for our friends. From this perspective, the ongoing farce that is their nonstop series of security lapses begins to look less like the missteps of some crazy overwhelmed kids trying to keep up and more like brazenly calculating moves by a cadre of opportunists with a generational disregard for any limits of access. Or privacy.

Which is a whole new kind of free. Not better, but decidedly new.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


“Cyber Monday”? Of Course, Cyber Monday…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79I guess I wasn’t really paying attention these past five years, because somehow I missed the announcement from The National Retail Federation that today had a new name.  Apparently the people at Shop.org issued a press release back in 2005 which noted that 77% of online retailers earned substantial boosts to their sales on the Monday immediately following Black Friday or what I prefer to call, the day after Thanksgiving (I’m a sentimentalist in that regard).

Made-up Holiday or not, there’s no denying the numbers.  Last year, comScore reported that we spent $887 million dollars online, more than 25% higher than what we spent on Black Friday.

So if you are already feeling the pressure to get all of your Holiday shopping done, here’s a list of all the really big deals you can get in lieu of actually getting anything done at the office.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Apparently, Most People Vacationed In Farmville This August…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79For the first time ever, Facebook took the top spot for total time spent among major sites last month, beating Google and Yahoo.  ComScore reports that collective time amounted to 41.1 billion minutes: a considerable number.  By my always-suspect math, that equals 685 million hours or 78, 296 years online, on Facebook, in August.  We invested that incredible amount of our free time, or time we fat fingered from our employers, posting and poking and mucking about on a site that didn’t exist six years ago.

And the staggering numbers extend beyond Facebook.  Yahoo! led all sites for unique visitors with 179 million, edging out Google’s 178.8 million.  Even more remarkably, recent Nielsen data shows we Americans spend nearly 23% of our free time online just on social networks; that’s up 43% since last year.  Social networking and blogs now outrank online games and email as the top online activity.

So if you’re wondering where the time goes, and why it seems every year passes more quickly than the last, there’s at least part of the explanation.  As a culture, we’ve found a whole new place to spend our time.  And exercise our collective OCD.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Two Studies, One Conclusion on Social: It Makes a Huge Difference

I came across two entirely different studies on social media this week that led to a pretty ineluctable conclusion; we got to get more of our clients into this.  A smart social program can create a quantifiable lift to traditional advertising efforts.

That’s the conclusion of a joint study from Nielsen and Facebook reported on MediaPost earlier this month.  In a report titled “Advertising Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression,” they analyzed 800,000 Facebook users’ survey data about seventy different brands and 125 Facebook ad campaigns for Ad Recall, Brand Awareness, and Purchase Intent.

Perhaps not surprisingly to anyone who puts any faith in word of mouth marketing, they once again proved that recommendations from friends and peers drive a whopping majority of purchase intent.  With access to Facebook’s voluminous data, Nielsen was able to compare responses of users who had seen the ads with some social context against users who did not, and the results were extremely clear.  Purchase intent soared from 2% to 8% when social is added to the mix, awareness doubled from 4% to 8% and ad recall improved dramatically, from 10% to 16%.

All of which makes you think Social must be the biggest thing since Lady GaGa.  Hardly…  Another recent report pulled numbers from Arbitron-Edison, ComScore and Nielsen to show that while 87% of Americans recognize what Twitter is, only about 7% use the service at least once a month.

For something so recognized and so reported on, that’s seems awfully paltry.  But the issue is simple: most Americans don’t see the value in it.  And they are probably right.  The people who really use and engage with Twitter are opinion leaders and dynamic connectors who thrive on being the first to know and always on the leading edge.

From an advertiser’s point of view, those people are particularly valuable because they influence so many others.  And so once again, the wisdom of the Nielsen/Facebook study makes total sense.  Of course the returns are higher when you add social media, even if Twitter is not a dominant medium–you are engaging with the type of people who like to drive opinion, to influence others and share perspective.  If you engage them, you radically expand the impact of your paid media plan.

All of this is why I support the notion of Social Creative more than mere Social Media.  Developing Social Creative means developing ideas and tactics to engage and involve influential people to spread your brand story, people whose influence directly impacts purchase intent.  It’s a simple addition to any creative assignment and we’re getting better and better at fulfilling it.

To my way of thinking, these studies are just more evidence of the need to drive convergence between advertising and public relations.  Because despite what some self-interested new media advocates might want you to believe, it’s not one or the other–it’s both.  The most effective selling programs use all the available tools.

And Social Creative must be one of them.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Wow! Facebook Had the Best-est Christmas EVER!

According to an article in the New York Post, Facebook got it’s first ever #1 Web Site ranking on both December 24th and 25th.  With 7.81% of all US web traffic Christmas Day, Facebook even trumped the almighty Google–a rather mindblowing thought.

Facebook traffic has always spiked around the Holidays but now that the social network’s audience doubled during the course of 2009 to over 350 million users, it finally has the heft to displace even search.

If you’re still wondering how Facebook is ever going to make money, just review those Facebook facts again–conveniently posted for your perusal at http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics :

  • Over 350 million active users, half logging on every day for fifty five minutes.
  • Over 2.5 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
  • Over 3.5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week
  • Two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have implemented Facebook Connect
  • More than 65 million active users currently access Facebook through mobile devices, and they are almost 50% more active than non-mobile users

The key to Facebook’s future profits lies in data-mining.  Because frankly, they are sitting on unimaginable volumes of it.  And if their ferocious ongoing litigation with any third party that dares to access individual accounts and potentially scrape some of that data, they clearly intend to keep it all to themselves.

That’s not particularly social; it’s just business.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

As General Web Sophistication Grows, The Effectiveness of Simplistic Tactics Withers

As Louis CK says rather brilliantly, “Everything is amazing and no one’s happy.” The ready availability of technology inevitably inures people to its intrinsic wonder and possibilities through nothing more than repeated use.  As we navigate through the wild, shapeless zettabytes of information and arcania on the web, we form habits, creating our own narrow, predictable Habitrails™ around our interests and viewpoints.  We close our doors of perception lest we grow overwhelmed.

Picture 2Which may explain these recently released findings from comScore and Starcom updating their ongoing research around click-through rates for online ads.  Two findings leap out from this data.  First, a mere 16% of all web users account for nearly all online ad clicks, with 85% of clicks coming from 8% of users the study rather unimaginatively categorizes as ‘heavy clickers.’  And secondly, in less than two years between July ’07 and March ’09, the total share of all internet users who click online ads shrunk in half, from 32% to 16%.

Of course, media and marketing salespeople will respond to these findings by redoubling their protests that click through is an anemic measure for ad effectiveness.  And indeed, another comScore research shows online display ads generate meaningful lift in both online and offline sales whether they click the ad or not.

All of which kind of misses the really obvious lesson here: there simply can be no standing still on ‘proven’ assumptions about online audiences.  It’s a movable feast and the more effective and advanced technology becomes, the more the time-honored values of surprise, delight and intrigue will rise to the fore of this media platforms requirements to be truly effective.  Creativity always has been the differentiator between the average and the exceptional.  Even the wonkiest data wonks will soon have to admit tonnage and new message environments alone will not move the needle.

You always have to have something worth saying.  Or at least a clever way to say it.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Today’s Early Adopters Less Driven By Socialization, More By Monetization

Businesses Line The Nest for this Little Birdie     

Businesses Are Lining This Little Birdie’s Nest

A fascinating new post on ComScore outlines how Twitter traffic has exploded over the past few months, and then further details which demo is driving that growth.  And it’s probably not the one you think…

Conventional wisdom says that early adopters of technology are primarily young, and historically that’s proven to be true.  But we are living in a very unique time as an unprecedented rate of change directly impacts traditional behavior patterns.

When baseball players Twitter from the dugout, celebrities and news shows Twitter from their sets and businesses strive to Twitter to every real and potential customer they can scrounge up from the blogosphere, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that its highest indexing demographic is not the 18-24 year old segment that traditionally makes up social media’s early adopters.  Actually, the highest indexing demographic is 45-54 years old.  Seriously.  Tweet that, Rockin’ Robin…

Now the sheer size of that late Boomer demo partially explains this phenomenon, but it actually makes sense in context of today’s gold rush scramble by American businesses trying to figure out a relevant approach to social platforms and their siren’s promise of ‘free’ media.

This rush to monetization has helped Twitter grow exponentially over the past few months.  And with its open API and laissez faire attitude toward user driven evolution, Twitter should remain relevant for quite some time.  By investing in this platform, businesses inevitably extend its social lifespan.  It always makes sense to follow the money…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79