Actually, don’t hold a mirror up to ourselves …

In 1997, David Bowie sang “I’m Afraid of Americans.”  Cruise the internet for twenty minutes and you realize, the frequently androgynous Space Oddity has a point.

Picture 6Take the infamous peopleofwalmart.com, which currently boasts 127 pages of photographic misfortune.  Whether your consider this site an exercise in cultural sociology or merely a repository for too many fat jokes, the array of unfortunate clothing choices and personal style options that some of our fellow countrymen willfully display while out in public is lunch-losingly appalling.   More than climate change, the warts and all reality of this demographic makes me worry for my children and the future they will inherit.

And yet the People of Walmart expose themselves unwittingly, surreptitiously captured on camera phones with dubious resolution.  Far worse are those who spend the time and effort to expose themselves…wittingly.

According to YouTube’s own blog, people upload over twenty hours of video to their service every minute.  For Hollywood to match that output, they would have to release nearly 115,000 new feature length movies every week.  That staggering fact helps to explain someone like Shane Lee.Picture 5

With no production values, no assistants, and no discernible talent, Shane regularly broadcasts to the world.  Using his laptop’s built-in camera, Shane sings (kinda), tells jokes (almost) and beatboxes (not even close), usually while standing in front of a fake paneled wall reminiscent of Calvin Klein’s creepy kiddie porn advertising from the mid 90’s.  Sample some Shane magic here, here and here (by the way, what’s with that gift on the couch Shane?).

As a result, he’s earned a type of acclaim peculiar to our times; Shane is quickly becoming internet famous.  And I have to admit, part of me finds great joy in that.  He seems affable enough; he’s good natured and holds a fervent belief in what he does–he’s kind of hard not to like.

This is the great consumer generated content that many people contend will change the marketing world.  And some clients go crazy for it because it’s free.

But I learned a lesson about free back in college.  I bought a vintage sport coat, and the Salvation Army threw in a pair of pants…for free.  I showed them off to my then girlfriend (now wife), who deadpanned “Trust me, they’re costing you.”

Hmm.  Sometimes, I’m afraid of Americans too Dave.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Al Gore: Advertising Visionary or Greenhouse Gasbag?

Ex-Vice President Al Gore delivered the keynote address at Digitas’ Digital Content Newfront this past Wednesday in a speech Adweek characterized as ‘putting agency creatives on notice.’  Speaking as one of the co-founders of Current Media, Mr. Gore used the theme of sustainability to outline how he sees the media landscape changing radically and a new form of advertising emerging, powered by user generated content.

As An Ad Pundit, He Makes A Strong Ex-Politician

As An Ad Pundit, He Makes A Fine Ex-Legislator

The crux of his thinking boils down to this quote: “In the 20th century, the advertising model was based on the same principles that the Industrial Revolution was based on: scale.  It was big, it was blunt, very expensive, and very intrusive, and audiences have now begun to resist that old advertising model even as the environment in which it is presented changes a great deal. The new model is very different because the media landscape is completely different.”  Few advertising professionals would bother arguing that thinking.  The arguments begin with Mr. Gore’s assumptions that ‘a new model’ even exists.

Advertising’s ‘new models’–and there are plenty of them–are all in beta.  And will probably remain there for the rest of my career.  The rate of technological change is just waaaay too fast for anyone to declare they’ve solved it and put their pencils–or cell phones–down.

Mr. Gore cites Current Media’s reliance on “VCAMs” (Viewer-Created Ad Messages) that users generate for brands that advertise on the network.  Everything is spec, the advertiser compensates the ad creators directly, and the payment increases dramatically if they choose to use the ad somewhere else.  This is a decidedly cost-effective solution; video crowdsourcing if you will.  Those inclined to think positively of this notion will compare it to the Threadless model, which it clearly resembles.

But as a ‘new ad model’ it fails on the very ‘sustainability’ issue Mr. Gore thumps so relentlessly.  Is such a model sustainable for a less sexy packaged good?  Is it sustainable when the novelty wears off and users catch on to the strong economic bias for Current’s self-interest over their own?  And how can this model’s basic assumption that “strategy is meaningless, prevalence is everything” make sense with video, when the assumption of some sort of ubiquity advantage has been proven so blatantly wrong for internet banner advertising?

He did make valid points and Mr. Gore’s adoption of a new model is laudable.  The fact is that his ‘new model’ will be far from the last one he–or any of us–adopts.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79