And with this, we wrap Halloween 2019

My daughter forwarded me this Halloween clip that blew up across social media today. Click the link on the photo and make sure to turn up the sound as you watch..

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A quick bit of Googling revealed that the man who posts on Instagram as @Shauhindavari is Shaw Duvari, a professor at Orange Coast College in Newport Beach where he teaches public speaking. He also coaches the OCC Speech, Debate, and Theater team, which he drolly describes as “incredibly successful.”

A quick scan of his posts show his typical viewcount averages in the low hundreds, but something about this one struck a nerve. He’s already eclipsed 20,000 views due in no small part to a share from Barstool Sports.

No, he might never match the viral success of this oh-so-relatable post. But today, Shaw wins the internet. Good on you guy.

Creativity Will Save Advertising. Again.

I know, I know–it’s too late; advertising’s already dead. Digital/social/experiential/big data killed it…

The only problem is this constant, dire drumbeat sounds juicy, it creates alarm, but it’s mostly just opinion or self-promotion. It’s clickbait.

If you want facts, follow the money. In the most recent case, digital entertainment powerhouse Netflix bid $300m to buy Regency Outdoor Advertising.

That’s right, the disruptive, disintermediating, digital content giant wants to buy a billboard company.

Their motivation is fascinating. Netflix noticed that big outdoor imagery stokes social sharing. People posted lots of shots of their “Netflix is a joke” campaign to Instagram which promoted their comedy line-up.


In other words, people share great creative.

These days, $300m might not sound like an earth-shattering number, but it represents the largest acquisition in Netflix history. Imagine; a leading digital giant offering to pay one third of a billion dollars on a oft-declared dying medium…a smart company wouldn’t do that unless they knew it worked.

And that’s a fact.


This post originally appeared in Screen Magazine.


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.



Middle of the Road Messages Get Stuck In Traffic

Everyone recognizes how the content revolution has forced the agency model to change. Our industry must adapt to making new things in new ways to better serve the explosion of content platforms. We must evolve to produce ideas Faster and Cheaper.

But advertisers must also change. And that’s getting far less discussion.

Today’s sheer volume of content radically changes the context for commercial messages. YouTube claims that people upload 300 hours of video every minute–with this much choice, there’s simply no need to sit through anything uninteresting. ‘Commercial breaks’ are a thing of the past.

Today, the rarest commodity of all is attention.

Advertisers must adjust to recognize that those Faster and Cheaper ideas must also be Louder. Is what you’re saying or how you’re saying it enough to keep your audience engaged? It better be.

One way to make ideas Louder is to make them resonate more powerfully with a specific market. This is the best kind of messaging; deeply personalized and deeply engaging. And many advertisers are already pursuing this.

But another solution is to become more extreme, in both what you say and how you say it. In this case, clinging to the time-honored code of broadcast standards and practices will make advertisers fall behind the national digital conversation.

Consider Josh Ostrovsky, whose Instagram posts boast 5.7 million followers. In just the past year, he’s launched a wine, published a book, guest stared on VH1, walked the runway at Fashion Week and signed with CAA, all thanks to his appropriated/curated web jokes.Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 8.28.52 AM

He refers to himself as “The Fat Jew”, which is outlandishly offensive to advertisers. But not to his rabid daily audience.

And that’s why we think advertising could be getting a whole lot more interesting pretty soon. Because if advertisers want their hard-earned dollars to earn notice in a landscape dominated by Grumpy Cats and Kardashians, we’re all gonna have to find a lot more interesting things to say. And a lot more interesting ways to say them.

Dennis & Mike

A Troubling Fact Regarding Digital Industries and Employment Figures

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonOn Tuesday, New York Times Op-Ed writer Joe Nocera wrote a fascinating article about Jaron Lanier’s recent book “Who Owns the Future?” Within the review, Nocera cites Laneir’s harrowing perspective on how the new digitally-centric economy ultimately decimates the middle class. A simple comparison between Kodak and Instagram  blew away Nocera. And then me. And probably you, in turn…

“At its height, Kodak employed more than 140,000 people…When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people…Instagram isn’t worth a billion dollars just because those 13 employees are extraordinary…Instead, its value comes from the millions of users who contribute to the network without being paid for it…Networks need a great number of people to participate in them to generate significant value. But when they have them, only a small number of people get paid. This has the net effect of centralizing wealth and limiting overall economic growth.”

Collaborative networks hold such promise for intellectual and artistic advances; if Lanier is right, we need to innovate to add economic ones as well. Or better still, find ways for more people to return to that old fashioned idea of making stuff.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

PS:  I stepped away from this blog for a while. But I’m getting back to it now–mostly as a repository for bite-sized information I find interesting. Hope you will to.

This Could Be Your Next Social Media Tool

Dennis Ryan Olson, AdvertisingAccording to the good people at Curalate, creators of software that provides analytics on Pinterest and Instagram trends, the most repinned images feature rich details and luminous color.

Apparently, this software analyzed nearly a half million Pinterest posts made by advertisers for things like saturation, texture, brightness and hue. And the finding? People like color. Particularly what they call “multiple dominant colors” which get repinned 3.25 times more than those with only one dominant color. Additionally, if the image is blown out or very dim, its repinning numbers drop.

Other odd color-based fun facts brands might enjoy?

  • Predominantly red images get more repins than blue ones
  • Images in autumnal hues of red, orange and brown images receive about twice as many repins
  • Completely desaturated or saturated images have fewer repins than more moderately saturated images
  • Images with less white space get repinned more often
  • Brand images without faces receive more repins by nearly 23 percent
  • Images with a smoother texture are up to 17 times more repinned than images with a rough texture

So, much like the notion of writing web copy to optimize search, brands may soon be tweaking their color wheels to optimize sharing as visual-based communication grows increasingly important. But despite this science, brands should probably avoid carving these findings in stone. Most people recognize color goes through cycles of popularity. At least most people who have ever dealt with an apartment that features a refrigerator enameled in ‘avocado.’

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


The Ever Observant Alan Spindle Posted This During Yesterday’s Broadcast

NFLHe captioned this Facebook update with: “I must say, this Houston Texans logo is quite groundbreaking. I have no idea what inspired them to create such an out-there design.”

Sometimes social media’s biggest reward is a smart observation or witty bon mot. You know, just like you might overhear in some other social situation.

Because engagement strategies notwithstanding, with Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Instagram, it’s always social first.

Good one Alan…


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.