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

Doing Social Media 9-5 Means You’re Doing It Wrong

Back in the 80’s, I worked with a really smart research guy (this was waaaay pre-planning) named Jim Crimmins.  Jim biked to work not because he was green (this was waaaay pre-green) but because it made sense to him.  He was a soft spoken presenter of deeply-resonant ideas, one of which was the importance of aperture, which simply means finding the right place and time to maximize your message’s persuasiveness.

In those days, aperture referred to the right place and time for television, radio, print or outdoor (this was waaaay pre-internet…are you sensing a theme here?).  It was an important thought then, but today’s hyper-connected, social media/web 2.0 times magnify aperture’s importance ten fold.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson, MinneapolisAccording to a recent statistical analysis by Buddy Media, a leading supplier of social marketing software for clients and agencies, 89% of retail brand posts launch between 8 AM and 7 PM Eastern Time.  That makes sense because those are the work hours of the corporate people writing the posts.

Except it doesn’t make sense, because that’s when subscribers and consumers receiving those posts are busiest.

According to the study, brands reach people more successfully when they launch their messages in more favorable apertures.  For the Facebook crowd, engagement with retail brands rises 20% on posts between 8 PM and 7 AM.

In fact, it’s not just time of day but day of the week that drives engagement.  Buddy Media’s data reveals Facebook user engagement varies over the course of a week, peaking on Wednesdays and Sundays.  In comparison, Friday is the worst day for consumer engagement.  Retailer fans engage most with posts outside of traditional workdays.

All of which means it might be time to rethink our posting schedules and perhaps even invest in publishing tools and software, which not surprisingly, Buddy Media offers.  You can download their statistical report and check their methodology here.  Self-interest notwithstanding, it’s a pretty compelling argument for adjusting when we try to engage consumers online.

Other quick highlights of the report?  Facebook engagement drops with the frequency of posts during the day–less than three seems ideal for generating Likes and comments.  And keep them short: lengthy posts kill engagement. Only 5% of retail brand Wall Posts are less than forty characters, but those receive 86% higher engagement.  And in a sucker punch to the hopes of every creative in marketing, posts containing “$ off” and “coupon” pull a 55% higher user engagement rate and simpler posts work better than more interesting and involved ones featuring links to video and photos.  Apparently when you are interrupting someone’s social experience, they are hopelessly self interested and simple-minded.

If I learned anything from Jim, it’s that aperture matters.  Which means this blog post is waaaaay too long.  Oh, and perhaps not surprisingly, Jim now teaches at Northwestern University.  Some folks can’t stop learning. And teaching.  For that, thank you Mr. Chips.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

File Under “Mixed Signals”–the Simmering Kids and Eyeglasses Controversy

In my daily scanning of internet ephemera that I justify under the catchall heading of ‘keeping tabs on the culture,’ two items popped up yesterday that my cerebral cortex couldn’t reconcile without massive cognitive dissonance.

First, an item posted on MediaPost’s Center for Media Research, presented a new study conducted by an eyewear client that found–perhaps not surprisingly–very positive benefits to wearing glasses.  Beyond the obvious enhancement of visual acuity, kids consider other glasses-wearing kids to be ‘smarter’ than non glasses wearing kids.  The 6-10 year olds surveyed also considered the glasses-wearers more honest but otherwise, didn’t judge them about their appearance positively or negatively.

Hmm…  All these findings constitute incredibly-favorable survey results for a seller of childrens’ eyewear, but that’s not what created the cognitive dissonance.  No, the problems arose when hours later, this concise item popped up on Buzzfeed, explaining that hipster glasses were officially no longer cool.

I can’t process both points of view and so, for the time being, my synapses will no longer be holding hands.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

In An Imperfect World, Intelligent Iteration Is A Crucial Skill

Picture 2Eighteen years ago, photographer John Terence Turner created this instant classic for Nike.  The shot captures a lone runner mid-stride in one shaft of light amidst the shadowed canyons of Seattle and features the brilliantly understated caption, or perhaps even encapsulation: “There is no finish line.”

I flashed back to this visual after listening to Mark Earl’s August 11 video clip on “3 Minute Ad Age.” Mark is now an author but as the ex-Head of Planning for Ogilvy London and Europe, he has some very intelligent viewpoints on marketing in this social age.

Primarily, he questions the wisdom of advertisers’ perpetual quest for “The Big Idea.”  Mark believes that it’s unrealistic to expect a single creative concept will span the incredible diversity of viewpoints in a global marketplace.  Life isn’t just multiple choice, it’s multiple solution as well.  So why should we place one big bet?  Wouldn’t it be smarter to lay down a number of little bets?

Scientists refer to the latter as ‘the iterative method’ while those of us who were liberal arts majors might be more inclined to just call it ‘common sense.’  How valuable would it be if we could get over our industry-wide predilection for polishing and instead, crank up the production machine and generate a number of good ideas, with the caveat that once we produced and shared them, we’d analyze their in-market impact?  We could test for things like sales results, engagement and favorability.  More importantly, we could then try to assimilate those results into actionable guidelines for future work.  It’s the equivalent of firing a cannon, seeing where the shell hits, and then making incremental adjustments to bring each subsequent shot closer and closer to your target.

Learn and apply: it’s a simple notion really.  Unfortunately, it’s far less simple to be honest about what we learn and disciplined with subsequent applications.  But we can try.

Because as the ad says, there is no finish line.  If there were, the Nike brand would still be about exhorting yourself toward physical self-improvement instead of evolving to the culture-shaping dynamo they’ve become.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

No, Television Isn’t Dead. In fact, It Hardly Has a Headcold.

One might reasonably trace our industry’s current low regard for TV back to Top Gun. Tony Scott’s chocolate filtered, MTV visuals ushered in a new standard for visual storytelling on film…and in turn, sent our industry down a road of escalating production costs.  The CG, the morphing, the big dollar talent before and behind the camera; through the 80’s and the 90’s, ad professionals learned to approach commercial filmmaking with a high end fetishistic mania, whether selling cars or Levi’s or spreadable cheese.

So as the new Millenium dawned and the digital revolution took ever deeper hold and changed the fundamentals of how and where we consume media, clients leapt to this new platform and it’s alluring promise of low cost development and free placement.  From a procurement perspective, this is all good for clients.  And today, the promise of social networks and their attendant database and word-of-mouth and viral message amplification promise even greater returns.  For free!  It  is all sooo much better than TV.

"...The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration."

"...The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration."

Except for the small detail that it isn’t entirely true. Recently, a group called the Advertising Research Foundation reviewed 388 case histories from seven different advertising research firms and concluded that TV is not only as effective as it’s always been, it may even be increasing in effectiveness at sales building.

To many in our business, that news will be as welcome as a floor length mink at a PETA convention, but the ARF people conjecture that in a market cluttered with choice, television ads help simplify the buying decision.  “They want to zone out and watch TV and relax and let the communications wash over them. It’s an extension of the brand experience,” said Joel Rubinson, ARF’s chief research officer.  That’s not exactly web 2.0 behavior…

In this case, perception is not reality.  Of course, in an image business, perception often means more than reality, and many clients perceive TV as costly and irrelevant. And there’s the rub…

Clients are entirely correct that digital media provide highly personal, cost-effective opportunities to connect with their consumers.  Savvy marketers should use this intimacy to create deeper levels of brand engagement, particularly with innovative engagements on social networks.  Still, the undeniable fact remains that TV continues to hold serve as the number one way to raise awareness.  Period.

And so, high costs and all, high risks and all, lack of guarantees and all, television should remain part of the marketing mix for many major brands.  The dream of a digital world resplendent with business-driving free media simply does not exist for every brand.  A few, savvy, first-adopters?  Maybe, but the rest of us will need to keep applying inspiring new thinking to both our messages and our marketing mixes.  And we’ll need to keep integrating television into our plans: convergence across mediums remains an inevitability.

Studies like this provide valuable reminders against confusing popular opinion and reality.  And how ‘popular opinion’ often proves synonymous with ‘wishful thinking.’  (see also: California Banking Crisis).

In these expanding times, TV now crosses the three screens of TV’s, PC’s and cell phones.  So the real truth is not that television is dead, but rather that is has really, really diversified.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79