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.

Why Vertical Formatting Matters for Social Video

It might have something to do with their primary audience’s age, but in a small bit of irony, I couldn’t maintain this video’s native vertical format when editing it in iMovie, or posting it to Vimeo, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Still, when it comes to the giants of social media platforms–Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–vertical is the way to go.

By the way, if you need some expert social media strategic advice, connect with Kate Miller; she’s pretty amazing. IG & TW: @LetsReallyLive.


“Content”: Always a Noun, Never an Adjective

If you watch or read the work of Salim Ismail, you understand that today’s biggest business challenge is adapting our linear mindsets to an environment of exponential change. The pace of change is so fast that our assumptions of what’s known and valid are continually questioned, debunked, and reset. Which can be disorienting.

Consider content. As advertisers migrated from television to digital platforms, the demand for content exploded. Yet many clients’ mindsets remain stuck in TV-era thinking; if we make it, people will watch it.


Today’s media landscape is awash in content. Last July, YouTube’s CEO announced people upload 400 hours of content every minute of every day. That’s over THREE YEARS of video every hour. And that’s just YouTube. Facebook claims to generate 8 billion video views every day, Snapchat does six billion.

Clearly, the game has changed. And keeps changing.

Combine this new reality with the dropping price of computing power and ubiquity of motion graphics software which allows people all over the world to create the same beautiful 3D work that built DK’s reputation, and it begins to hit home how much we must keep evolving.

The world isn’t waiting for our work. Our every project must earn attention, drawing audiences to our exceptional ideas and amazing executions. And that’s just part of it.

Today, technology enables people down the street or across the ocean to produce similar work at a lower cost, so we must also provide our clients a superior experience. We must make working with Digital Kitchen more rewarding, more profitable, and more fun. We must continually find ways to add value and make working with us the best part of our clients’ days.

Yes, we make content. But we can never be content.


We Are All Personal Brands. Sort Of…

Few professions seem to enjoy self abuse more than advertising and marketing. Our ingrained habit of coining pseudo-scientific catchphrases in hopes of increasing the perception of this as a serious business only adds fuel to that fire.

To wit: the notion of” personal branding.” We have no intention of jumping into that blackhole. Suffice it to say that the intended effect of this post on the Fetrow Ryan personal brand amounts to nothing more than “hey, those guys like to laugh too.”

Of course, if you want to assume we are manic about staying abreast of pop culture and filmed content, that would also be fine.  Enjoy, won’t you?

Dennis & Mike

Profiting from Social Media: Instagram Stars Earn Luxury Hotel Stays

If you want to get comped in Vegas, develop a big gambling habit. To get comped in luxury suites pretty much anywhere, develop at least ten thousand followers on Instagram. With any luck, you’ll soon be ordering room service and lounging spa-side in an embroidered bathrobe, uploading the occasional selfie with a prominent location tag.

Next time, try to avoid reflecting your smartphone in your designer sunglasses, Marianna.

Next time, try to avoid reflecting your smartphone in your designer sunglasses, Marianna.

This article from tells the story of 28 year old lifestyle blogger Marianna Hewitt who takes an international trip about once a month, all expenses paid. It highlights her trip to The Mulia Resort in Bali, Indonesia where her entire stay was comped in exchange for some prominent mentions on her Instagram posts.

Marianna is not signed to CAA. She isn’t part of Maker Studios. She is simply a photogenic woman with a good sense of personal style and a predilection for shooting tastefully-composed selfies with a narcissist’s bent. Oh, and she has 431,000 followers on Instagram. Let’s not forget that.

This is the brave new world of individual network broadcasting, the same one that transformed the Kardashians into ultra-wealthy moguls of modern media. Most of these social stars lack representation, many want to monetize, and all juggle the balance between the content that built their reputations and the corporate dollars that can make them pay off.

Today, any advertiser willing to do some social media research can find bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers, Viners or Tweeters with an audience they would like to reach. And they can usually find those audiences at a far lower cost then they will at the annual television upfronts. As Allison Sitch, vice president of global public relations for the Ritz-Carlton, contends, these social stars deliver extremely qualified audiences. “If they have a luxury audience and a passion for luxury travel, the engagement, that metric, is way more important to us than the fan count. We don’t want to have 100 million fans that we never ever hear from.”

Some stars like Marianna play on photogenic looks and a crowd-endorsed editorial photography style that promoters consider a proven commodity. Others play on their ability to build engaged communities around various passions, some of which inevitably overlap with advertiser’s needs. And some will never really find a home in corporate America, at least not without risking the following they’ve earned through their own, original voice.

We’re living in a brave new world filled with all kinds of valuable social ad networks to leverage. This is where your best content should play. Because this is where you best audience probably is.

Dennis & Mike

I’ve Seen The Future Of Shareworthy Social Content Creation…Please God, I Pray This Isn’t It

The ever-remarkable Jeff Martin passed along an item this morning with a four word caption; “the end is near.” He shared a link to a site where inbound marketing software maker HubSpot is offering seventeen customizable templates free to anyone looking to “…create social media content that your audience will want to share with their friends.Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThe copy cites a social media statistic regarding how people are 44% more likely to engage with social media content that contains pictures. Which is true. But that can be a challenge if you don’t know advanced graphic programs like PhotoShop, so HubSpot made the templates in PowerPoint. Now anyone can click, customize text, save and post to their Facebook feeds. Yeah!

Essentially, HubSpot is promoting clip art for social media. Will it work? Probably, kinda, for a bit. But this kind of ‘advance’ is emblematic of the creeping tactical obsession that cheapens too many digital platforms. Instead of telling big, brand building stories, we reduce online tasks to hits and shares and likes. And the web gets a little more crowded and a lot less interesting.

The content people really want to share with friends is personal. It’s opinionated. And it’s deeply emotionally compelling in one way or another, whether it’s joy or hilarity or anger or wonder.

Shareworthy Content is not stock. It’s not off the rack. It’s creative. Informed by anthropology and serving a strategy, yes, but ultimately, creative.

Because before anyone shares anything, they must first be inspired.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Camp Gyno: What’s Your Verdict?

I’m married with two daughters. And while I do miss my dog Jack, it’s not because he was male but because he was a great dog. So when Facebook lit up with all my ad friends talking about how awesome this particular bit of content was–how it made Dollar Shave Club‘s comedy seem trite–I had to watch. So I did.


I can’t help thinking this piece speaks way more to the agency that produced it than its intended target audience. I mean, I watched it multiple times and it took reading about this on other blogs to realize that they were selling actual tampon care packages. With no product shot, I just figured parents were making up little boxes brightened with candy themselves. You know, the way they’ve done for campers since, oh, the dawn of sleepaway camps.

Look, I could be wrong. I could be waaaay wrong. And it has proven undeniably watchable with nearly 4.8 million views on You Tube during its first  week. But I just don’t know who this film is supposed to speak to. Anxious young girls who might enjoy a helpful care package of feminine hygiene buoyed by candy? Their parents–or more specifically their moms, who might actually relate to this narrative with a mixture of nostalgia and knowingness? Or agency creatives who think it’s sassy (and potential award show bait) to have a pubescent actress enunciate the word ‘vagina’ with such emphasis?

Like I said, I could be wrong and this could be hugely effective–I don’t know. So please take this poll and let me know what you think. I’d really like to know if you find this shareworthy.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Don’t Like Instagram’s New Terms of Service? Wait Sixteen Hours.

Oh Mark Zuckerberg, when will you learn?

Instagram started this week by quietly making two major shifts in their terms of service. For one, they claimed ownership over every image their users post, enabling them to sell those images without compensation or notification, even as they simultaneously absolved themselves of any class action liability. Oh, and they offered no opt out.

This is lousy. Kind of heinous even. The fact that they tried to slip it through with a blog post that made no mention of these specific changes demonstrates a corporate oiliness we’ve grown to expect from Facebook-owned entities. Still, blatant chutzpah notwithstanding, you have to admire how quickly and cheaply they crowdsourced the world’s biggest stock photo library…

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonBut as should be expected in a medium that trades on information, the web noticed, word spread and within hours, a massive backlash mushroomed. Predictably, Instagram seemed to reverse course by mid-day Tuesday. This rhebus outlines the action; first the company announces, then the web revolts, then the company recants, claiming to be misunderstood with a PR spin absolutely no one believes.

We should be used to this kind of end around from any Facebook-owned entity. It’s not like this is new behavior from Mr. Z; it’s almost like he can’t stop himself from imperiously disrespecting the people who use his services. How many times has he tried to sneak through surreptitious changes to Facebook’s privacy policies?

But all’s better now, right? Actually, not so fast. First, their CEO simply claimed “it’s not our intention to sell your photos”–which is hardly legally binding. Instagram’s new terms of service remain–this is just damage control.

They also haven’t recanted the second shift in their terms of service; namely that “…we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.” In other words, that cool photo you see on your home page? That might actually be paid content, or what old people call ‘ads.’

The web runs on sponsored content, and we accept that. But on reputable sites, it’s identified, helping those sites maintain both credibility and an ethical balance with visitors. With this policy, Instagram is intentionally creating a gray area and you can almost hear them daring their users; “go on, see if you can tell what’s organic and what we’ve placed there.”

Hmmm…  I’m no dotcom billionaire, but it seems to me, the web community just proved they’re pretty good at that.

So long Instagram, it was a fun two years.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


PS: Thanks Devin Bousquet, for the awesome profile picture.

You Can Waste A Ton of Time In Sixty Seconds…

On Monday, MSNBC’s Technolog posted the graphic below which outlines exactly what happens out there on that World Wide Web every blessed minute of the day…on average of course.  Even a casual perusal can be kind of mind blowing: Google answers nearly 700,000 search queries, which is roughly the same number of status updates posted on Facebook each minute.  Over 168 million emails are sent, 20,000 new posts go up on Tumblr and over 13,000 hours of music stream over Pandora.  And beyond the limits of minutes, over 110 new pictures posted to Flickr every second!

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Of course, things really get crazy when you convert these minutes to full days.  Or god forbid, actual years.  Do the math on YouTube video uploads: if there are over twenty-five hours of video added every minute, that means there are over 1,500 hours each hour and a whopping 36,000 hours every day, which equates to well over four years worth of video. Every day.  Good luck keeping up with that.

Thanks to the ease of content generation, the explosion of social sharing and the basic premise of Web 2.0, content isn’t just King, it’s exponentially ubiquitous.  Or some other expression that means really, really freaking massive.

Damn internet, you scary big!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Rethinking Video from Broadcast Networks to Social Networks

As an industry, we have blathered about “Content” for so long that today, when it makes broad, immediately-obvious sense for mainstream advertisers to leverage it, many clients discount it’s mass relevance.  Shame on us.  With the massive changes brought by Facebook and other social networks, our audience now expects content to find them.  And not just content–good, relevant, engaging content.  After all, it’s been pre-vetted by their own trusted peers.

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanAll of us view friend-forwarded videos everyday and yet the the perception of online video as somehow exotic persists.  We’ve allowed it to become the purview of highly-specialized marketing firms and that’s incredibly stupid.  Despite being oft-dismissed as no longer relevant, no other marketing organization has more experience creating emotionally-compelling, strategically-relevant video for clients than a ‘traditional agency’ that has perfected video-storytelling over decades.  Studies prove that viewers invest three times more time watching brand videos when they are shared by consumers.  With that kind of deep engagement, it’s no longer about using the web because it’s a cheap video medium–it’s leveraging the web because it’s a more powerful video medium.

Creating video content for social networks is not hard.  It’s not exotic.  It simply requires we adjust the messages we’ve long created to suit the medium.  We need to make ‘sharing’ the video strategy.

And whether we want to call that ‘content’ or ‘online video’ or ‘shareable stories’–the final measure of success here boils down to whether our video storytelling engages or not.  The traditional elements of story, production value, and visual editing most determine success or failure with online video.

Like it or not, those are traditional skills.

And if we want to reassert our value to our clients, it’s time ‘traditional agencies’ get back to another traditional skill–salesmanship.  Of ourselves.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79