Television Commercials Aren’t Dead. They’ve Just Gone New Places. Amazing New Places…

Remember this spot for Cheerios? It first aired this past month and due solely to its casting of an interracial couple, incensed a disturbing number of bigot trolls, whose inflammatory comments forced General Mills to shut down comments on their YouTube page (but, admirably, not back down and pull the spot–way to be, General…).

It’s nothing more than a TV commercial. The same kind we’ve been watching for decades. The same kind certain pundits have deemed dead in today’s interactive age.

Television is far from dead. The numbers prove we watch more of it than ever. And as this spot demonstrates, no other medium has the breadth of reach or emotional impact of moving pictures and sound. No, while television may be many things, it is certainly not dead.

That said, television has definitely been transformed, mostly by the participatory web. A tiny but vocal smattering of racists attacked this sweet, simple story, using the coward’s cloak of online anonymity even as millions of people reacted normally, with emotions running the gamut from delight to benign neglect.

But those prejudicial attacks spurred another small but vocal group—Michael David Murphy and Alyson West from Atlanta, Georgia–who decided it was time to answer that ugliness with a showcase for love and family. They created a Tumblr  called “We Are The 15 Percent”: a reference to the 2008 census which noted that interracial couples make up 14.9% of all marriages in the United States. Michael and Alyson’s blog invites interracial couples and families to send in their photos as a counterpoint to this sort of idiotic bile. In just a few short weeks, they already have over 2500 submissions. And with national coverage from outlets like MSNBC, those numbers should continue to swell.

The photos are beautiful. The movement is affirming. The reach of television empowered by Web 2.0 is a marvelous thing to behold.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Read All About It…

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThere’s a lot of irony in the latest report on World Press Trends from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Sure, there’s the expected:

  • newspaper advertising’s 25% global decline over the past five years, with North America driving nearly three quarters of that drop
  • digital news’ growth and struggle to monetize
  • television continued dominance, with 40% of the world’s advertising
  • search’s dominance of internet ad revenue at 58%

But some of their findings were not so expected. Like how newspapers may be down and yet they’re still pretty pervasive. Globally, they amount to a 200 billion dollar annual industry and domestically, with ad revenues at $96 Billion in 2011, they represent 20% of the overall ad market. The biggest hit on newspapers has been the drop in classified revenues, which has dropped 65% in five years.

The real lesson here is that newspapers remain a viable media platform, particularly for an older, more educated audience. And unlike search, they can actually help you build a brand.

Besides, crosswords stink on an iPad.

Happy Friday!


Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Building Brands With Small Talk

Back in the day, brand building fell under the province of big television production. You cast some people whose face held light particularly well, spent a few weeks shooting the golden hours of dawn and dusk, then set them all into motion around an inspirational, major-chord track that built to a stirring conclusion. The client beamed, viewers nodded and everyone felt good.

The only issue around that kind of branding was ROI. Did it really work? Did positive feelings really mean that much to brand health, especially given the cost?

Often, the answer was yes. Big companies with global issues need people to feel positively about their presence and initiatives. Public opinion sways policy and markets.

But those kinds of messages rarely translated to say, a stick of gum or a box of cereal. That’s where today’s social media can step in: modern PR that starts online conversations and dialogue is the logical evolution of old-style brand building. Today’s social creates positive opinions around brands through direct engagement and charm.

In many ways, it is closely akin to cocktail party chatter. It’s always nice to meet someone who is easy to talk to, who has interesting things to say and draws you into the conversation.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Those same principles apply to social brand building: it’s less about getting you to try a yogurt right now and more about building positive inclinations to the brand that will drive sales and insure good feelings down the road. The party ends and you walk away with a favorable impression.

Of course, not everyone is skilled at this kind of thing, at keeping things light and airy and shared. Too often, immediate brand needs supercede respecting the proper tenor of the forum. That leads to, well, social awkwardness. Which is pretty much the opposite of social brand building.


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

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

The 2% Solution: Online Video vs. Broadcast Revenue

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonMore and more carriers like Comcast, Turner and Disney are migrating tremendous amounts of their proprietary content to the web.  At last week’s Elevate Video Advertising Summit in NYC, they announced that they plan to make 75% of their TV content available on line or mobile in the next two years. As iPads and Droids become de facto TV screens for a platform-agnostic younger generation, a real question for marketers remains where advertising will intersect that content, particularly when you consider the revenue.

Television advertising generates $70 billion a year.

Online video produces $1.5 billion.

That’s just over 2% of television. Yes, online numbers are growing but remarkably, so are television’s.

So what this really means is that things won’t be getting any more obvious any time soon.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


What’s Old Is New Again: Video To Drive 62% of All Internet Traffic By 2015

The super smart folks out at Cisco released their Visual Networking Indexing Forecast last week and chief among their findings was the internet video continues to explode. Obviously the majority of that is content in the form of music videos, video on demand and television programming but still, the total of all forms of video will equal nearly 90% of global consumer traffic in less than four years. Said more viscerally, according to Cisco’s predictions for 2015, more than one million minutes of video content will cross the network every second.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingThat’s encouraging news for advertising creatives steeped in video production and storytelling. In fact, it’s yet another piece of evidence that despite what others may want to assert to fulfill their agendas, television is not dead. But it has migrated. And looks like it will keep moving.

Start writing those scripts…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Reassessing The Cost of “Free” Media

Last night, as I got off the plane and walked through the F concourse in Minneapolis, I checked Facebook and learned the Bulls beat Miami to take game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. Given the ongoing sadness that is the Twins, there wasn’t anyone to share that news with so I just posted ‘Likes’ to every friend who mentioned the win in their status.

Thinking back to two weeks earlier, at that same concourse in the same situation via the same media, I learned a Seal team had assassinated Osama Bin Laden.  And the realization that the Facebook platform had worked it’s way into my life on a fundamental level hit me like a ton of bricks.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingOr maybe like a ton of impressions.  According to comScore’s Ad Metrix, Facebook delivered nearly one third of the 1.1 trillion display ads on America’s internet during Q1 2011, leading all online publishers.  By any measure, that’s a dominating advertising platform and it speaks to the utility and fun of this ‘free’ opt-in medium. But Facebook’s ‘free’ differs significantly from television’s.

I first became aware of the ‘cost’ of free media in the early 70’s when my Dad explained that the reason I had to go to Richie Tanguay’s house to watch Ultraman was that they had this thing called ‘cable.’ They paid to watch TV, which allowed them to watch some channels that didn’t even have any commercials at all. Ours was free because ours had commercials.

But Facebook’s free contract with users runs far deeper than the flood of display ads.  Facebook owns yottabytes of personal data on all of us: where we live, what we like, who we follow, even the very photos we post for our friends. From this perspective, the ongoing farce that is their nonstop series of security lapses begins to look less like the missteps of some crazy overwhelmed kids trying to keep up and more like brazenly calculating moves by a cadre of opportunists with a generational disregard for any limits of access. Or privacy.

Which is a whole new kind of free. Not better, but decidedly new.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


Remember The Exorcist? Some Friday Video Awesome…

Cinematic production values?  References to an ancient religious rite?  A long walk to a silly house?

God love Italian advertising…

Happy Friday!


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


PS:  Thanks to Joe LaPorte for passing this along.  Fun stuff…

PSS:  And thanks to Steve Brodwolf for pointing out that today is Friday the 13th. Nice build…


Why The Entertainment Factor of Digital Marketing Matters More Than Ever

We all know the jibes that go back and forth among different camps in the marketing world… “Brand advertising is dead–experience drives brands today.” “TV is not dead, it’s still the single fastest mass awareness medium no matter what the Twitterverse believes.” “Digital may be measurable, but all that means is now coupons live online–whoopee.”

But like all sarcasm, each insult contains a grain of truth, even if it’s ridiculously exaggerated.

When it comes to digital efforts, you must start by realizing that anyone online is only ever two clicks away from sports, gossip. comedy, prOn–the endless parade of distraction that makes up the world wide web. You must be relentlessly self-interested, but the self in question here is their self not yours.  Or your brand’s.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingAnd worse, you also must realize that you’re vying for attention amidst a Niagara-esque deluge of digital information that anyone even remotely plugged in deals with these days.  Our computers, our phones, our iPads–every platform presents endlessly renewed tsunamis of information and distraction. Which makes even something as light as Facebook both a joy and a chore.

But that’s anecdotal research. Now some smart people, the kind who probably wear lab coats, have actually done studies on the subject. Not surprisingly, their results match how most of us feel: we can’t quite keep up.

Of the people polled by for their April Digital Lifestyle survey (download it here), almost half admitted to being connected to the web  “from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed.”  Oh man…  Worse, nearly three-quarters of them called their data stream “a roaring river”, “a flood”, or “a massive tidal wave.”

This access is literally changing human behavior. Over three quarters of us regularly respond to emails on nights and weekends, half of us never turn our cell phones off, and perhaps worst of all, 40% ignore family and friends with over 35% answering work emails while with our kids.

And technology will only increase that data stream.

So the real hard question to ask is this:  is your idea worthwhile enough so it can pull people away from their friends and kids without making them resent you?


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson