This Year’s Lasting Super Bowl Advertising Lesson

Now that the game is over and all the teasers and tie-ins have played out, that great arbiter of Super Bowl commercial rankings — USA Today’s Admeter — has declared a winner: Jeep’s charming and hysterical “Groundhog Day.”

Bill Murray killed it. So Jeep killed it. But Highdive? The agency that created this spot? They totally killed it.

Just not for the obvious reason.

Sure, their new spot is a note-perfect comedy gem, a meticulous recreation that adds wonderful new gags. It’s a spot we all wish we had done.

But just one year ago, Highdive was a relatively young startup agency with a handful of employees that somehow produced a :60 for the Super Bowl.

And their spot got savaged on social media.

Their ad featured a Dr. Martin Luther King sermon, artfully edited to highlight Ram Truck’s tagline “Built to Serve.” Critics cried foul, pointing out that MLK’s full remarks specifically argued against aggrandizing yourself by buying fancy cars. With Black Lives Matter very much in the headlines, their debut spot was roundly panned for being tone deaf.

So Highdive had their moment in the sun. And failed. Very publicly.

Many have written about the lessons of failure, about how much adversity can teach you for the next time. And all too many creative people lose heart when critics pounce, believing their chance is over, they missed, there will be no next time.

Happily, Highdive didn’t. And now here they are, just one year later, occupying the highest perch in the advertising landscape. They took the hit, learned from it, and bounced back with a vengeance.

And a groundhog.

Kudos to them. May many more good things lie ahead.

PS: One other lesson from this year’s ads? If you want a quick primer on how music shapes viewer emotion, pay attention to how the score and SFX of this one and this one generate inspiration and the start and stop of this one drives the comedy. Wonderful craftsmanship.

The Data Confirms It: In a Contentious, Divided Society, Joy and Love Still Rule

I’ll admit. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I love those viral clips that demonstrate human kindness and thoughtfulness writ large. Nothing is as contagious as uncontrollable laughter.

Still, it’s easy to feel bummed out these days, particularly if you use social media. Most recognize how Facebook gamed our feeds to garner more attention, and in the process fiercely stoked polarization to the detriment of our democracy. It’s depressing to see how quickly even benign social media comments get weaponized into political spew. And political debate on the nightly news rarely elevates beyond schoolyard name-calling. Given this news environment, it’s only natural to consider our society as little more than a tumble of feral, clawing tomcats in a bag.

And then, right at the moment when hope fades, along comes a day-brightening bit of undeniable evidence proving the exact opposite.

Of the 3,019 emojis in the Unicode Standard version 12.0. the top two used are Face with Tears of Joy and Heart: ūüėā and ‚̧ԳŹ.

Those are the two symbols we reach for more than any other: emojis symbolizing happiness and love. Those are the emotions we express the most. And yes, I consider that very good news indeed.

We are so loving and supportive with our emoji

I realize emoji choices aren’t long on anger or division, but don’t harsh my mellow here. I like that we have a language predicated on love and support for each other.

Admittedly, I don’t use emoji myself. I have nothing against them and will frequently type “heart” or “thumbs up” but I prefer the written word. No judgment, just preference. And I won’t deny that strings of these colorful hieroglyphics brighten up many an Instagram response.

If you’re interested in seeing where your favorite comes in on the frequency count, visit¬†Unicode’s Emoji Frequency¬†page.

I’m simply going to enjoy this sunny Monday a bit more, knowing that perhaps we’re not all spittle-lipped hatebags after all.

I heart that. I heart that a lot.


Go Kindness! Go Vols!

Peyton Manning.

Peyton’s my only connection to the University of Tennessee: my time on Gatorade and the joy of working with this underrated comedian who also happened to be pretty good at throwing a football.

And then this story happened…


It was “college colors” day at his Florida elementary school, and a fourth grade University of Tennessee fan didn’t have anything to wear. So he made his own, drawing “U.T.” on a piece of paper and stapling it to an orange t-shirt (I already love this kid and suspect he might someday make artisanal pocket squares in Brooklyn).

As can happen with attempts at creativity, his earnest design failed to impress the local cool kids who mocked his shirt over the lunch hour. This kind of cruel behavior always happens during lunch, doesn’t it? The teasing really upset him, which inspired his teacher Laura Snyder to share his tale on Facebook.

The universal nature of the boy’s story made Laura’s post go viral. And soon, some very astute, deeply human people at the University of Tennessee took note.

First, UT Interim President Randy Boyd sent the young man a care package from the student bookstore, insuring he would have plenty of Volunteer merchandise, both for himself and even some of those meanies who derided his homemade efforts.

Then the story really took off. News outlets across the country picked up the narrative. And having the right kind of reactive, social media savvy, the University in turn:

  1. Created t-shirts with the young man’s design, selling them online and donating the profits to anti-bullying organizations. This went super-viral.
  2. Offered the fourth grader a full ride scholarship to their university class of 2032, quieting the online yahoos criticizing them for taking advantage of the story.
  3. Dressed their 300+ “Pride of the Southland” marching band in the boy’s t-shirt during their game vs. UT Chattanooga.

We’re a painfully divided country these days, rife with finger pointing and name calling (thanks Russian troll army!). And yet as Americans, we are drawn to the well-meaning underdog. We will stand up for the unfairly criticized fourth grader. There are no sides, no partisanship in our support of a kid who was treated unfairly.

And that gives me hope for a better future ahead. At least when it comes to the University of Tennessee Class of 2032. You go anonymous kid, good on you.



Why Vertical Formatting Matters for Social Video

It might have something to do with their primary audience’s age, but in a small bit of irony, I couldn’t maintain this video’s native vertical format when editing it in iMovie, or posting it to Vimeo, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Still, when it comes to the giants of social media platforms–Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–vertical is the way to go.

By the way, if you need some expert social media strategic advice, connect with Kate Miller; she’s pretty amazing. IG & TW:¬†@LetsReallyLive.


Brad’s Wife: Meme or Meaningful?


Six words launched a million memes.

It’s been nearly¬†a month, and the arc of outrage/comedy caused by Brad’s simple tweet to his local Cracker Barrel is beginning¬†to fade.

What started as plaintive anguish incited a social media flash mob of lunacy and wisecracking one upmanship that dominated social media, late night television, and human interest news stories.

As the comi-controversy raged, a lot of us wondered “How is Cracker Barrel not responding to this?” Each day brought¬†new, ever more outrageous swipes¬†at their¬†expense (a personal favorite? The¬†’employees’ heading on Cracker Barrel’s¬†Wikipedia page briefly read “not Brad’s wife”), yet¬†corporate remained mum.


To people in the digital world, this makes no sense. Then again, in most self-referencing ad circles, electing the president we did also makes no sense.

The fact is, as much we may care about¬†Twitter and Facebook sentiment,¬†Cracker Barrel’s core audience isn’t that engaged. Add to that corporate’s¬†legal restrictions against¬†responding and the intrinsic,¬†no-win ‚Äúbig bad guy vs. little good guy‚ÄĚ set up of the story, and not responding¬†proves the wisest course.BradsWife3

We’re starting to see patterns with these social media firestorms. With a nonexistent cost of entry for expressing outrage, the masses pile on, making them burn white hot. But they cool just as quickly, fading into a dependably regular series of outrageous incidents to dominate a few news cycles before the circus moves on.

If you think of Brad’s wife as an actual human being instead of¬†a punchline, you empathize. But in the popular mind, she doesn’t even have a first name. In the end, the inciting incident is just too small to leave long-lasting damage on Cracker Barrel. To bastardize¬†Macbeth, this should prove yet another¬†tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


Profiting from Social Media: Instagram Stars Earn Luxury Hotel Stays

If you want to get comped in Vegas, develop a big gambling habit. To get comped in luxury suites pretty much anywhere,¬†develop¬†at least ten thousand followers on Instagram. With any¬†luck, you’ll soon be¬†ordering room service and¬†lounging spa-side in an embroidered bathrobe, uploading the occasional selfie with a prominent location tag.

Next time, try to avoid reflecting your smartphone in your designer sunglasses, Marianna.

Next time, try to avoid reflecting your smartphone in your designer sunglasses, Marianna.

This article from tells the story of 28 year old lifestyle blogger Marianna Hewitt who takes an international trip about once a month, all expenses paid. It highlights her trip to The Mulia Resort in Bali, Indonesia where her entire stay was comped in exchange for some prominent mentions on her Instagram posts.

Marianna is not signed to CAA. She isn’t part of Maker Studios. She is simply¬†a photogenic woman with a good sense of personal style and a predilection for¬†shooting tastefully-composed selfies with a narcissist’s¬†bent. Oh, and she has 431,000 followers on Instagram. Let’s not forget that.

This is the brave new world of individual network broadcasting, the same one that transformed the Kardashians into ultra-wealthy moguls of modern media. Most of these social stars lack representation, many want to monetize, and all juggle the balance between the content that built their reputations and the corporate dollars that can make them pay off.

Today, any¬†advertiser willing to do¬†some social media research can find bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers, Viners or Tweeters¬†with an audience they would like to reach. And they can usually find those audiences¬†at a far¬†lower cost then they¬†will¬†at the annual television upfronts. As Allison¬†Sitch, vice president of global public relations for the Ritz-Carlton, contends, these social stars¬†deliver¬†extremely qualified¬†audiences. ‚ÄúIf they have a luxury audience and a passion for luxury travel, the engagement, that metric, is way more important to us than the fan count. We don‚Äôt want to have 100 million fans that we never ever hear from.‚ÄĚ

Some stars like Marianna play on photogenic looks and a crowd-endorsed editorial photography style that promoters consider¬†a proven commodity. Others play on their ability to¬†build engaged communities¬†around¬†various passions, some of which inevitably overlap with advertiser’s needs. And some will never really find a home in corporate America, at least not without risking¬†the following they’ve earned through their own, original voice.

We’re living in¬†a brave new world filled with all kinds of valuable social ad networks to leverage. This is where your best content should play. Because this is where you best audience probably is.

Dennis & Mike

Dave Eggers, Walter Mitty and The Challenge of Social Media Life

My wife gave me Dave Eggers’ new book “The Circle” for Christmas. You haven’t read it yet? Well go ahead–I’ll wait…

I know, right? ¬†For a rather long book that’s dense with ideas, you do plow through it quickly (good job!). Eggers’ narrative revolves around the omnivorous, insatiability of social media and its intersection with and ultimate monopolization of modern corporate life. There were at least half a dozen moments that hit home like a punch to the stomach.

The constant checking of your various feeds? Check.

The need to declare every passing interest as a passion to enhance your perceived humanity? Check.

And then there was this passage, spoken by a lone Luddite holdout against this new insurgence:

“Listen, twenty years ago, it wasn’t so cool to have a calculator watch, right? And spending all day inside playing with your calculator watch sent a clear message that you weren’t doing so well socially. And judgments like “like’ and ‘dislike’ and ‘smiles’ and ‘frowns’ were limited to junior high. Someone would write a note and it would say, ‘Do you like unicorns and stickers?’ and you’d say ‘Yeah, I like unicorns and stickers! Smile!’ That kind of thing. But now, it’s not just junior high kids who do it, it’s everyone, and it seems to me sometimes I’ve entered some inverted zone, some mirror world where the dorkiest shit in the world is completely dominant. The world has dorkified itself.”

The character makes a good point, particularly when he goes on to talk about our ‘new neediness.’ The author makes quite a lot of good points, actually. And those were already bubbling in my consciousness when we went to see Ben Stiller’s thoroughly enjoyable¬†The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. ¬†At a key point,¬†Sean Penn’s photographer hero stakes out a highly-elusive snow leopard but ultimately decides not to press his shutter because he doesn’t want the camera coming between him and the moment. Not too subtle, but oh so true…

So this then, has become my resolution for 2014: to share digitally but live relentlessly analog. Not merely through re-tweets and shares, but rather through the visceral thrill of the first hand, with all its inherent mess and excitement, its disappointment and transcendence, all the immediate, the fleeting, the here and now.

That sounds like life worth tweeting.


I’ve Seen The Future Of Shareworthy Social Content Creation…Please God, I Pray This Isn’t It

The ever-remarkable Jeff Martin passed along an item this morning with a four word caption; “the end is near.” He shared a link to a site where inbound marketing software maker¬†HubSpot is offering seventeen customizable templates free to anyone looking to “…create social media content that your audience will¬†want¬†to share with their friends.Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThe copy cites a social media statistic regarding how people¬†are 44% more likely to engage with social media content that contains pictures. Which is true. But that can be a challenge if you don’t know advanced graphic programs like PhotoShop, so HubSpot made the templates in PowerPoint. Now anyone can click, customize text, save and post to their Facebook feeds. Yeah!

Essentially, HubSpot is promoting clip art for social media. Will it work? Probably, kinda, for a bit. But this kind of ‘advance’ is emblematic of the creeping tactical obsession that cheapens too many digital platforms. Instead of telling big, brand building stories, we reduce online tasks to hits and shares and likes. And the web gets a little more crowded and a lot less interesting.

The content people really want to share with friends is personal. It’s opinionated. And it’s deeply emotionally compelling in one way or another, whether it’s joy or hilarity or anger or wonder.

Shareworthy Content is not stock. It’s not off the rack. It’s creative. Informed by anthropology and serving a strategy, yes, but ultimately, creative.

Because before anyone shares anything, they must first be inspired.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

With Over 100 Hours of Video Uploaded Every Minute, It’s Easy To Get Lost On YouTube

Think about it: by the time you finish reading this blog entry, more than a week’s worth of fresh video will have been uploaded to YouTube. We upload more content in sixty days than the three major U.S. Networks generated in the last sixty years.¬†Over a billion people visit the world’s biggest website every month. Yet amidst all this enormity,¬†views of brand-created content have grown 73%, year on year.

So you want to create a clip for your client and post it on YouTube? That’s adorable, good luck with that.

Oh it is definitely being done.¬†A recent report from Pixability, a YouTube-certified ad agency, outlines a number of key findings regarding marketing on the site. Obviously, they are biased toward their own platform, but still their study of the world’s Top 100 Global brands and their 1378 verified channels uncovered some key findings (by the way, only one of those top 100 brands does NOT have a YouTube channel).

First off, while videos have an indefinite shelf life, they garner 40% of their total views in the first three weeks and the next 30% before the first three months. And yet, because so many videos are not promoted, more than half of these videos earn less than 1000 views. That’s a lot of wasted effort.

To avoid disappearing in those exabytes of data, Pixability recommends these best practices:

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonMake a lot of content: The most popular brands post almost 80 videos each month; 50% more videos per channel than the least successful ones.

Use social media. If you want views, link your content to Facebook and Twitter. Social media drives sharing. It never hurts to link your YouTube channel to traditional offline media either.

Vary video length: Post short ones to attract customers, longer ones to close those most interested. Basically, Pixability suggests creating a full sales funnel on your brand channel.

Optimize your content: YouTube is the second largest search engine so brands should utilize SEO, adapting for some specific YouTube channel architecture. One biggie is that Google prioritizes Web pages with YouTube video embeds. Another is to embed content with metadata, titles, descriptions and yes, brand logos, since clips can migrate so far off the YouTube platform.

Of course, I take issue with their data-geek bromide not to get caught in what they term ‘the overproduction trap.’ They claim lesser quality video works well too, but to my mind, they’re just trying to keep brands with no taste from feeling bad about themselves.

That’s ridiculous. You have a billion people coming to your door every month–put on a nice shirt and polish your shoes. You don’t live in a barn.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

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