How Do You Sell Mass Media Without A Super Bowl?

It was fun last week, discussing and debating the Super Bowl ads. It felt particularly special since it’s so rare that we all share an experience. The digital/mobile takeover consigned such commonality to the past, now that we build networks conformed to our own perspectives.

When even our media gravitate toward the niches Chris Anderson famously dubbed ‘the long tail,‘ how can you attract people back to mass platforms like network television, the long tailed beast’s metaphorical body?

Like any marketing challenge, successful solutions require a brilliant strategy. Just over three years ago, some clever people promoting Denmark’s TV2 created video content that is as strategically brilliant as it is emotionally powerful …

Celebrating not what divides us but all that we share; this is a resonant insight brought to tone-perfect life through writing, casting, music, and edit. There’s such delightful surprise in the discovery of our collective commonality and the unexpected things we share.

Locked off so much of the time in our own corners, it’s helpful to be reminded of that. Helpful, and reassuring.

Four year old video content for Denmark's TV2 warmly demonstrates a strategy for attracting people back to mass media: the things we share.

Thanks for That, Captain Obvious

Creative work can improve enormously when research uncovers interesting insights. But sometimes, it seems researchers must be in collusion with the people who make two-way mirrors or peanut M&Ms.  Because how else do you explain seemingly intelligent people setting up a methodology and constructing the trials to prove this:

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

The only really interesting thing about this study was that the New Zealand researchers used texting as a means of gathering the information and their response rate was unusually high. Yet another reason to pay attention to mobile.

Anyway, you can read all the amazing, who’d-a-thunk-it facts of the study here.  Just the kind of indepth intellectual content you need to know pre-weekend.  Happy Friday.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Before Marketers Go Nutso About Two Screens, They Should Focus On Getting One Screen Right

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonToday, more people watch television while using a tablet, laptop or mobile phone than ever before. This new behavior can create opportunity for marketers. But candidly, it’s a silly thing to prioritize right now. People watch television with two screens because they are hyper-distracted; like dopamine addicts, we can no longer sit through one distraction without searching for an even better distraction. This hardly qualifies us a message-receptive audience.

That’s why brands must start by getting their single screen messaging right. No, not their television ads; marketers must focus on their mobile presence and messages. Last week’s Black Friday sales and a recent study on mobile audiences prove how increasingly critical it is to optimize information and messaging about products for quick access on smartphone and tablet screens.

An analysis of Black Friday’s online sales by IBM showed that over sixteen percent of all online sales came through mobile platforms–an estimated 162 million dollars. Clearly, we’ve become comfortable shopping through these omnipresent devices. In fact, Black Friday’s mobile online sales rose a full sixty-five percent overt last year.

These numbers become really fascinating in the context of the latest JiWire Mobile Audience Insights Report, which among other fascinating learnings shows that more than eighty-five percent of  shoppers consult their mobile device in-store. They most frequently use them to comparison shop, but they also rely on them heavily for product reviews, coupons and general information. Some marketers want to ignore this behavior because it often results in “show rooming”: checking online information and then choosing another option, frequently while still in-store. Sure, that’s tough, but it’s an inevitable by-product of the rise of our consumer-driven economy.  But the upside for marketers savvy enough to optimize their mobile search results shows huge promise.

A smart multi-channel strategy aims to optimize your content with context. For mobile and online, that content must be persuasive recommendation and information through search optimization.

Because they do that just a short stroll away from cash registers.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

So Facebook Released an Earnings Report Yesterday…

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising–and Mark Zuckerberg said a few interesting things.

While attacking the myth that they can’t make money on mobile, Zuckerberg reported that their mobile active user base had grown 61% since last year.  Apparently 14% of their revenue now comes from mobile.  He also touts the mobile Newsfeed as a ‘natural ad format.’  So get ready for that to start to suck…

On the other extreme from ‘suck’, Instagram–acquired just last April–has already nearly quadrupled it’s users to over 100 million.

With monthly user count breaking a billion, Facebook’s daily reach now exceeds the Super Bowl by a factor of three.  Three times more, daily.  Wow.

Still, I don’t trust Facebook.  I frequently disagree with it.  Yet I use it multiple times, everyday.  And for some reason that I can’t quite pinpoint, that simple fact makes me feel like I’ve taken up smoking again.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

The Sneaky Nature of Large Scale Behavioral Change

So our TV went on the fritz Sunday night and a quick check showed I had to replace a bad Comcast HD DVR.  Anything involving service from this deservedly-maligned company gives me significant pause, but the thought of missing “Modern Family” spurred me to pursue a DIY option.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonThat in itself is newsworthy.  But that’s not the story.  The story is that I used my iPhone to take a few photos of the input configuration on the back of the machine.  And so last night, when I hooked up my replacement DVR, I called up the photo to wire it correctly.  And by golly, the thing actually worked.  Candidly, I still can’t believe it.

But forget my momentary and entirely uncharacteristic triumph over Comcast.  Consider the meta implications of that action–my smartphone has quietly but permanently replaced my pen.  We are visual people, we like visual diagrams, and so I took a shot of the wiring.  Just like I took a shot of the parking section I used at the airport.  And the chairs we thought of buying for the living room.  And the name of that great bottle of wine at dinner.

One fascinating, year old post on the 1000 memories blog lists a number of mind-blowing facts that prove that lots of other people do what I’m doing.  Two years ago, we were already uploading over six billion photos to Facebook every month.  At the time, their photo collection numbered over 140 billion–10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress.  Estimates indicate we have taken 3.5 trillion photos since the medium was invented.  Today, what we photograph has changed (no cost snapping encourages usage), as has how we take them, most likely with our ubiquitous smart phones.

My phone is my alarm clock.  My phone is my window into Facebook.  My phone is my notepad and a dozen other indispensable tools.

And I don’t particularly like using the phone.

But somehow this happened.  While we weren’t paying attention.  And the axis shifts, ever so subtly, to a new norm.

It’s clear that getting ahead of, or at least in line with, those shifts is ever more critical in this advertising business.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Powering Down…

People blog for all sorts of reasons; the discipline of daily writing, the joy of self expression, the fleeting sensation of relevance when a couple hundred people read a post. Over the past two years, I’ve blogged every weekday for all those reasons and one far more important: to keep up. Or perhaps more accurately, to catch up.

I’ve enjoyed a terrific career making advertising but three years ago, when my prior agency’s fortunes changed suddenly and radically, I looked up and realized the world had changed while I was busy making TV campaigns. I had largely ignored the biggest revolution in marketing: the pervasiveness of digital screens, the stunningly-swift adoption of social networks and the increasing presence of mobile marketing.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingI started blogging everyday to force myself to explore all these emerging platforms and immerse myself in the new reality. As Facebook continued to work it’s way every deeper into our lives, I started to recognize how social networks can provide savvy brands with crowdsourced PR. I was amazed how transparent and public people had become, sharing remarkable details of their personal lives. I learned about search and geo-tagging and the seamy creepiness behind unchecked online tracking. And I probably saw more than my fair share of virals and flashmobs and public self-destruction at the hand of Twitter.

I learned a lot, both by actively searching for subjects to discuss and happily, by reading comments posted and emailed from smart people offering their own points of view.  It’s been wonderful catching up.

But I gotta cut back. We’re doing lots of interesting things up here in Minneapolis, expanding the agency as we build and activate all sorts of brand communities for a wide range of clients. And I need to dedicate more time to that process.

So thanks for reading, thanks for your attention, thanks for your help. Going forward, I’ll post every now and then–habits can be tough to break–but my pace is definitely gonna slow.

Because advertising’s pace certainly isn’t.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

A Big Idea. No, Seriously, This is BIG.

As in, a giant, table-sized iPhone.

This news story has been popping up all over the web, along with allegations that it could be a total scam.  Apparently three Austrian Apple fans/development geeks spent the past two years developing a fifty-two inch table monitor with a working iPhone interface that they dubbed “Table.connect.”

And apparently, that’s not entirely legal.  Thus their insistence on anonymity.  And thus the suspicions.

Still, their YouTube demo video currently boasts over 2.14 million views.  And it’s a whole hill of fun to watch because, well, it’s an iPhone screen and it works like an iPhone screen.  Oh, and it’s huge.

Their prototype table uses a dock to transfer the information from a hacked iPhone into the massive touch screen but the developers believe they could hack any touch-input device as an input.  You can find more details about the device on their blog.

Only time will tell whether or not we’ll see a device like this in the future but one thing’s for sure: it would make mobile surfing a whole lot easier to read.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Is Mobile The Future of Advertising…or Couponing?

For the past couple of years, the advertising industry has heard the steadily-rising drumbeat for mobile–how it, along with geo-tagging and participation marketing, is going to change our industry.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79It makes sense.  Everyone carries a cell phone these days and the penetration of smart phones increases dramatically every quarter.  People use their phones to research all kinds of things during shopping trips so the aperture seems right.

The only problem is that despite all the headlines and conferences, no one can point to a single “kick ass mobile ad.”  Because there’s no such thing.  And don’t hold your breath for one anytime soon…

A post this morning on Digiday reports on a nationwide survey conducted by Sybase 365, a self-described “mobile commerce and content delivery company.”  The Sybase folks breathlessly report that over 30% of all consumers would buy things from their mobile devices if they were offered a discount or coupon.  From this, they conclude mobile commerce is about to hit “critical mass” because “mobile commerce ties the physical to the virtual world.”  Oh boy, pinch me.

Yes, this is advertising.  No, it’s not particularly interesting.  This is advertising at it’s most transactional, purely functional level.  It is database activation and optimization: certainly a necessary and useful pursuit, but not one laden with personal meaning or consumer engagement for the brand.  It’s commerce yes, but not content.

Hopefully, if the mobile platform proves relevant to consumers, someone will find a way to innovate brand messaging on mobile screens.  I just hope that by that point, my eyes aren’t too far gone to notice.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79