Found on Flickr: The Subversive Wit of TrustoCorp

My friend Jeff Berg was surfing images on Flickr when he came across this gem:

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson, Minneapolis, Advertising, Design

This is the work of TrustoCorp–an organization shrouded in mystery but extremely adept at Photoshop and high-end tagging.  Neither of us had ever heard of them before Jeff happened upon their photostream, but a quick Google search showed they have everything from a simple website that provides a slideshow tour of their postings around the island of Manhattan, to a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

According to their bio on Flickr, “TrustoCorp is a New York based artist (or artists) dedicated to highlighting the hypocrisy and hilarity of human behavior through sarcasm and satire. TrustoCorp targets areas in the public domain typically reserved for messages of trust and authority and subverts them with messages of mayhem and absurdity hijacked from the visual style of our authorities.

Hey, it’s a Friday so try to find a few minutes to poke around their provocative work.  It will make you laugh and make you mad, perhaps even at the same time.  Artists…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


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

An Unsolicited Plug for an Art Director With Really Nice Work

Lisa Muzik, Element 79’s creative recruiter, forwards a lot of creatives’ books–or rather websites–to me so we can keep up on the available writing, art directing and designing talent in the market.  A few weeks back she sent me the work of a guy named Greg Hathaway who–judging solely from his website–seems like a pretty interesting kind of Art Director/goofball.  And I say that with admiration.

Following the example of his commercial world namesake, Greg appears throughout his site neatly dressed and sporting a patch over his eye–a lovely allusion to David Ogilvy’s classic print campaign “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt.”  .

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising
His work is interesting and fresh, though somewhat outside the mainstream of major brands, but what really spoke to me was the work he posted to his Flickr account.  These two posters come from a collection he calls “Superman Wears Your Pajamas” and while I can’t pretend to imagine what might have possibly inspired this set of motivating graphic designs, I can say I’m a huge fan.  This work just knocked me out.Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

So if any potential client out there would like to hand E79 a big ol’ chunk of business, please do, so that in turn, I can look into hiring Mr. Hathaway.  Given his somewhat skewed manner of looking at things, he’d probably be pretty interesting to talk to.

In a people business like advertising, being interesting to talk to counts for an awful lot.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


There’s Always Room For Art

A Flickr user from the UK who goes by the handle “StartTheDay” posted this charming photo of a Smart Car last month.  Apparently, he discovered it as he was taking a walking tour of Rome’s architecture.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

I can’t pretend to know what would motivate (possess?) someone to crochet a multi-colored cozy for their compact car, but I can state without hesitation that it is an inspiring act of art.  It serves no practical purpose other than to delight and surprise anyone who encounters it.  And that qualifies it as pure art.

Some people take a limited view of advertising as solely a business, as a scientific exercise of stimulus and response.  I feel sorry for people like that.  They can never e open to those very, very rare ad messages that have been so carefully and lovingly crafted to earn attention through delight and surprise.  Sadly advertising isn’t an art all the time.  With its fundamental value lying in driving sales, it can’t be.

But every now and then, if we make enough room for it and keep our eyes open, we can find it.  And a simple ad for beer or body wash can be as magical as a sweater-wearing automobile.

Happy Friday.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


What A Wonderful World It Might Be…

I was researching a project last night which led me to this 1930s-40s in Color (Set) on Flickr.  The photo below wasn’t really germane to what I was looking for, but like so many other stream-of-consciousness digressions on the web, it does enjoy an odd synchronicity with so many year-end blog entries I’ve been reading lately.  Namely, how most of us view this first decade of the new millenium as something of a bust.  And no, that’s not my opinion; according to the Pew Research people, that’s a fact (details here).

Of course, the events of the day will always effect how you view things and this Downhill Decade has been lousy with fear.  We kicked off with the Y2K hysteria then quickly plowed into the wrenching impact of 9/11 which cast a long shadow across the national psyche.  On and on, the news presented a steady drumbeat of negativity, from Hurricane Katrina to Islamic fundamentalism to Wall Street venality and even my beloved Irish’ ongoing ineptitude on the gridiron: it’s been a decade rife with fear.

But, to quote John Goodman’s character Gale Snoats in the imminently quotable Raising Arizona, “I would rather light a candle then curse your darkness.”  And so, take a moment and look at this railcar from long ago, snapped by a true American treasure, photographer Jack Delano.  This was just one of a 50-car railroad carnival that traveled the Eastern Seaboard for three decades, starting in 1933.  Delano spotted it at the Vermont State Fair of 1941.  Take a moment and read that strong, confident typeface promising a better experience.  And let’s all take a moment to keep that in mind as a sort-of mental motto as we tumble into this millenium’s second decade.

We can choose to make this a World of Mirth, even should some boneheaded Nigerian try to make it a world of evil and needless brutality.  Mirth can prevail if we will it so.  Joy is a choice.  I choose joy.

And hope this Kelly fella can do something about Notre Dame football.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The New Marketing Challenge: Mastering Perpetual Beta

Picture 1Last week, a post on iMedia Connection with the incendiary headline “Why Twitter Will Soon Become Obsolete” , caused a bit of a stir. Jason Clark, a creative director at VIA Studio, made a rather compelling argument that despite the hype surrounding this platform, people shouldn’t consider it a final destination as a social network.  Referencing the constant stream of new platforms that have sprung up on the net these past twenty five years, Clark argues that all have been social networks of one form or another, from the late 70’s bulletin boards and usenet groups, to the rise of email in the 80’s and then the increasingly rapid iterations and adoption of blogging and AIM to the more contemporary platforms like Friendster which begat MySpace and eventually Facebook, along with all the recent graphic networks like Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo.  The only constant throughout has been change; as soon as one platform captures the attention of a large group, a technology and needs-driven iteration develops and if it proves useful, the herd quickly adopts it as well.  Or more depressingly, once the signal-to-noise ratio becomes unbearable with marketers spamming the platform and chooching up the interface, people look for something new.  He points to Google’s Wave as a potential next destination.

Despite the pugnacious headline, Clark’s argument makes fundamental sense, even as iMedia simultaneously posted a story on how Nielsen measured Twitter’s user base growth at an astounding 1444% this past year: as of May, 18.2 million accounts had registered on the service.  Marketers now must evolve their tactics to keep up with internet time, creating an uncomfortable cycle of constant reinvention to keep pace with engaged audiences.

Our business challenge now is to sustain a constant sprint, to keep tabs on critical consumer markets that migrate with quicksilver speed in a constant movable feast.  This is the phenomenon guest blogger Tim Mauery wrote about this past Tuesday: today, Fastest/Smartest wins.

The trick however, is keeping an eye on the one marketing goal that never changes: building client brands.  You can lose hours of the workday, surfing the web and social ‘NOTworking’ under the pretense of understanding the market.  But the business of brand building has also become more time consuming, particularly today when the participatory Web 2.0 has essentially provided consumer opinion with a mass distribution channel.

Brands are opinions, and we need to continually shape, steer and improve those opinions with clever, strategic engagement across more consumer touchpoints than ever.  Against our shrinking timeframes, picking which touchpoints to engage given finite marketing dollars will decide who soars and who stumbles.

If anyone has any tips on doing that successfully, the comment board is open.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

“Social” Comes First, “Media” Comes A Distant Second—If At All

A lot of clients have their knickers in a twist over the profound changes brought on by the rapid adoption of Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, et al.  They want to know how to leverage these new media: what it takes to make a fan page or develop lots of followers by tweeting.

Unfortunately, the only people who consider these networks “media” are marketers— that woman in your book club who just friended you certainly doesn’t think that way.  To most users, these platforms simply provide a convenient way to maintain personal relationships in our increasingly time-starved lives.

Recently, the clipboard set at Yankelovich has been making the rounds with a presentation on Millenials and Social Media that echoes this perspective.  Their research suggests social networks present a unique forum for personal engagement that is very hard for brands to penetrate effectively.  Despite their surging popularity, Yankelovich contends that the social media provide lousy environments to sell people on brands.

For the most part, I agree with those findings.  Most brands do not offer anything particularly unique or compelling to consumers; few boast the passion-stirring qualities of a true badge.  But some do.  Two million fans signed on to follow Adidas Originals on Facebook.  Nike+ created their own network of runners and as of last January, they logged over 200 MILLION miles.  Tony Hsieh, the hyper-connected CEO of Zappos has 821,000 dedicated Twitter followers, an impressive number but still far behind celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal (1.35 million), President Obama (1.5 million),  and the shameless Ashton Kutcher (2.3 million).

Notice that none of those examples could even remotely be termed a ‘parity product’—each is unique and singularly devoted to something (a team, a lifestyle, policy) that millions of people can share.  The same can probably not be said for something more prosaic, like say the Swiffer.

Moreover, each of these successful social media brands deliver something unique to people: advice, insider perspective, first looks.  That is unique content people care deeply about, and passion has always created and defined social groups.  If your brand legitimately demonstrates and champions some passion that excites a group of people in your market, you stand a good chance to earn positive returns on social media investments.

But if your brand does not, you can and should still leverage social media, but instead of trying to talk and lead, watch and listen.  Twitter makes it easy to aggregate what people say about your brand and Facebook users are notoriously public with their opinions.  Flickr posts feature tags and comments and combing through Amazon customer reviews provides refreshingly unvarnished consumer opinions.  The Social Media provide a constant real time focus group for any savvy brand.

So, should every client be in Social Media?  Definitely. 

Should every client be there with Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts?  Not so much.

Because this forum is far more “Social” than “Media.”  Here, you don’t buy followers or purchase a captive audience.  You can’t demand attention; you have to earn interaction.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Don’t Confuse “User Generated Content” With “Original Content”

Not Exactly the Wisdom of Crowds           

Not Exactly the ‘Wisdom’ of Crowds

If you go to Flickr and type in the phrase “Holding Up the Tower of Pisa”, you will get 324 results, all featuring tourists documenting themselves as they interpret this classic comedy meme of flawed Italian architecture optical illusion photography.

There is nothing original about this gag, and yet, like the compulsion that drives Pacific salmon to swim hundreds of miles to return to their birthplaces and spawn, thousands of tourists can no more leave the Pisa area without documenting themselves in this act then they could visit Kiev and not order the chicken.

As advertising adapts to the realities not only of convergence, but also the creative democracy of mass amateurization ushered in by today’s wonderfully accessible digital photography, video editing, audio mixing, and desktop publishing tools, one fundamental truth becomes absolutely inescapable: the best idea wins.

Despite budgets, despite production values, despite credentials and titles, in the final measure, the best idea wins.  Most times, that won’t be an amateur’s idea.  But if you spend anytime surfing the net, and you see things like this, this, and this, you can’t deny that a good idea can come from anywhere.  And does, just often enough, to create a vague sense of doubt among some clients about whether or not they should buy a concept…or wait around and hope for something better.  From someone.  Anyone…

It’s a major frustration of the business.  But the only way around it is to have the best ideas.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

A Whole New (Planning) Mind…or…Fun With Context

The best planners demonstrate what Daniel Pink coined “A Whole New Mind”; they pull together seemingly disparate ideas to reveal something new and imminently useful. Sure, planners still turn to old standbys like syndicated research, but the most inspiring and creative ones comb all sorts of digital sources for insights. (On a separate note: can we finally please kill focus groups?  That methodology is sooo over…)

Not Actual Size

Not Actual Size

The vast amounts of user generated content on the web provide easy entry into the personal lives, interests and values of various people.  Sites like Flickr and YouTube hold a wealth of visual information, much of it within innocuous background detail, letting us inspect homes, offices, desks–even purses.  Since few people activate their security settings, Facebook and MySpace provide detailed troves of personal opinions, such as which TV shows they like, and which they claim to be ‘fans’ of. Comb and you quickly learn who mentions you, plus what else they are twittering about, who they follow, and in turn, who those people follow.  Even something like Pandora can be illuminating: anyone who has ever shared a dorm room knows musical tastes reveal inordinate amounts of deeply personal information.

Handled clumsily, this is all merely deck-clogging data.  Considered creatively however, an insightful planner can extrapolate meaningful human truths to shore up one very critical aspect of every brand story: the context.  When planners draw fresh personal insights from these unfiltered sources, they guide creatives and insure the brand stories they craft will be deeply relevant and meaningful to their audiences…that they will gibe harmoniously with their lives.

After all, while most people like stories, everybody loves stories about themselves.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Thanks for Reading This Blog, But Go Here Instead…

Admirably Old School  

Draplin Design Co.: Admirably Old School

Seriously, surf over to the Draplin Design Co. website and you will not be disappointed.  Aaron Draplin is a compulsive blogger and designer with a strong bent for mid-century American graphics.  I’ve visited his site daily for months, compulsively reading his opinionated ramblings and perusing the odd ephemera uncovered by his rabid curiosity.  I look forward to every new post.

It’s remarkably powerful, the relationship between inspiration and ideation.  Everytime I drop by, his offbeat images spark my imagination. For instance, one of his links led to this stunning image.  Another led to this remarkable Flickr collection of shots of an old Kansas City Star newspaper press.

Which got me thinking how easy and fun it would be to assemble a collection of the most oddball hairstyles ever captured by film or pen and post them as a Flickr set provided by Supercuts.  It may never gather a huge audience like a TV spot, but it could earn a cult following.  And unlike TV, it costs virtually nothing.  As does a YouTube page, a Wikipedia entry or any of a hundred other new media opportunities.

In our Web 2.0 world, these kinds of innovations will grow increasingly critical to maintain meaningful engagement with our far-flung consumers.  Keeping a watchful eye on some of the most accomplished and interesting creative minds working the web today makes it far easier to integrate these ideas into our daily worklife. 

So thanks Aaron.  Wherever you are.  I’d really like to meet you someday.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79