So Steve Jobs Stumbled As He Introduced the New iPhone Yesterday…

Element 79 Chicago Advertising Dennis RynAll I can say is “welcome to my world.” The fact that intermittent wireless access interrupted his planned presentation just puts him in line with the rest of us who depend on technology to work 24/7.

As much as I love Cupertino design and think the iPhone is a fascinating little device, it’s basically a crappy phone.  It drops calls like a butterfingered juggler and the promise of 4G connectivity is laughable given it’s frustratingly sporadic 3G coverage.

Conventional wisdom says I should blame AT&T and truth be told, I do.  But I never felt right giving Apple a pass on this one.    Which is why I was cheered to see this piece written by Danish mobile consultant John Strand.  In it, he dares to tell the truth about this wildly popular device: it has barely over 1% of the total global mobile phone market.  As Strand points out, “there are more people with Polish passports in the world than iPhone users!”

Strand argues that the iPhone is a niche device.  And he’s right.  What’s interesting is how much sway it has in the media.  He compares it to Paris Hilton–he just doesn’t understand why it gets so much attention.  Given that most agencies regularly offer iPhone app ideas to clients, this information does give you pause.

As an advertising person, I’m particularly culpable for this misinformation.  We have all been so moved by it’s elegance, so enraptured by it’s digital life integration, so charmed by it’s apps, that we forgave far too many other sins.

Which is yet another reminder: never underestimate the power of coordinated, synchronized PR.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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There’s An App for That, And This App Gives 20% Off

Two separate news stories about the iPhone popped up last night.  The first from PC World announces that Apple’s App Store just posted the 100,000th app for the iPhone.  That’s a breathtaking amount of software options for a phone, though as the article is quick to point out, perhaps that number indicates they’ve taken this far beyond need.

Picture 1More informative however, was this second story about Pizza Hut’s iPhone app.  The headline is how that pizza chain generated over one million dollars in sales off of this app by making it easy to use, and offering 20% off every order coming through it.  This ongoing discount is a perfect example of a value add–why should I put your branded app on my phone?  Oh, because you give me real value for doing so.  Maybe that’s why their app has been downloaded over a million times.

In similar fashion, both Papa John’s and Domino’s are rolling out mobile ordering sites as well and claim large incremental boosts to their sales volume.  And really, doesn’t that make intuitive sense?  I won’t buy a car via mobile, but making pizza delivery simpler is a real benefit.

And doing it for 20% off is a positively killer app.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

A Huge Television (and Online and Mobile) Audience Is There For Your Ad, But You Still Gotta Earn It

We’re still watching.  Actually, we’re watching more than ever.  The three-screen audience for video content has never been larger or more active, that is, if you define ‘active’ as sitting still and watching other people do things.

...And Everyone's Watching

...And Everyone's Watching

For advertisers, that’s terrific news. But candidly, it’s even better news for traditional ad agencies that long specialized in television production. Because despite the flurry of new formats and technologies, the fundamental consumer desire to watch video thrives unabated in a platform agnostic manner.  Clients who ran to new media shops based on the strength of their technical prowess alone may want to reconsider; the viewers are there, but you can’t assume they’re an eager advertising audience.  It takes compelling content to earn an audience, and that starts with story.

Two recent posts on this subject actually make for an interesting compare and contrast. Last week, Chris Rohrs, the president of the Television Bureau of Advertising (find their rather hideous website here), posted a persuasive editorial in Adweek where he cited recent Nielsen       time spent data that registered the highest numbers in their nearly sixty-year history.  Nielsen suggests the average American household spends eight hours and twenty-one minutes in front of the TV every day, with the precious Teen demo logging nearly three and a half of those hours.

He went on to cite a March study from Ball State’s Center for Media Design, hailed as the “largest observational look at media usage ever conducted.”  Rohrs takes great delight in that study’s finding that ninety-nine percent of TV viewing in 2008 was done on a “traditional” TV with less than 5 percent of that viewing using DVR playback.  Web video from YouTube, Hulu and all other Web/cell phone media accounted for less than one percent of all viewership.

Obviously Mr. Rohrs has a bias to present but still, he uses these facts well to rebut the conventional bromide of so many new media advocates: “television is dead.”

Of course it isn’t Chris.  Say it with me, won’t you?  “Television is not dead, it’s just diversified.”

And that’s the point Gavin O’Malley made yesterday on MediaPost: viewership on all three screens has never been higher.  Special events added extra fuel to online viewership numbers as people watched the Inauguration and the Final Fours from their desktops.  Again citing Nielsen, US online video usage grew thirteen percent year-over-year while mobile jumped more than fifty percent.

The two mens’ numbers around DVR use seem to conflict but the undeniable truth is that we are watching more video than ever…which must have something to do with this great nation’s rampant obesity, but that’s another blogpost.

Call me self-interested but my takeaway from all of these findings is that agencies deeply schooled in television production can no longer be cast as behind the times.  The collective skill and experience all that commercial production engenders gives us a leg up over any putative content provider, particularly if we’ve moved aggressively into new media anyway.

Like so many things, the means don’t matter nearly as much as the ends.  Facile skills on specific platforms mean nothing if the content isn’t there.

Stories, drama, ideas always come first.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

CONTEXT: Advertising’s Next Creative Frontier

TV commercials, print ads, posters, radio spots, banners, rich media, long form: most creatives can generate competent content once they develop a feel for the format.  The challenge of content boils down to narrative or stylistic innovation and surprise.

The Right Message At The Right Time

The Right Message At The Right Time

But content won’t be the biggest challenge for creatives over the next few years; context will.  Advances in data farming and technology-empowered customization will challenge creative imaginations to anticipate and empathize, to visualize and speculate around consumer engagement occasions like never before.  Soon, it will no longer be enough to dream up a surprising idea; we will have to go further and determine how to customize that idea based on variables like target age and gender, time of day and social setting, even changes in weather, news and collective mood.

To truly exploit context demands a more fully immersive imagination: a skill previously unasked of advertising creatives, yet one that will increasingly drive the differentiation and success of marketing platforms.  Messages that reference, or at least acknowledge, the world surrounding them will find more receptive audiences.

Context has long been the promise of mobile marketing.  For the past few years, we’ve been promised the revolution of using GPS location to activate messages regarding local offerings and attractions.  It also promises to improve search as algorithms grow more sophisticated at filtering meaning based on user data.  And it promises to reinvent usage of the humble coupon, creating ever more relevant offers based on demographics and location…and perhaps even astrological signs.

Historically, traditional agency creatives have ceded the entire contextual domain to direct marketers.  But as technology continues to improve and refine user data, innovative thinkers will dream up ways to use this information to exponentially improve the relevance, engagement and impact of their ideas.

Because the most powerful messages are deeply personal.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79