To Activate Video Content, Stop Treating It Like Broadcast

You see it again and again on corporate YouTube channels: a random smattering of videos, often with different tones and themes, none with any significant number of views. That’s usually because their channels function as a parking lot for whatever video content they have on hand. Hey, it’s free, what’s there to lose?

Opportunity for starters. As the world’s second largest search engine with a reported three billion searches per month, YouTube may be a ridiculously crowded platform, but it’s the premiere destination for anyone looking for video-based communication. And companies should be there because people are looking…

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But companies shouldn’t be there simply with recycled broadcast spots. Digital video works 180º differently than broadcast; instead of being intentionally general to reach 500,000 people, digital video narrowcasts to reach the right 5,000 people. The point is to target an ideal audience (or audiences), customize our story messages to engage them, and communicate as specifically and singularly as we can, hoping to earn their attention by speaking directly to their wants, needs, and interests.

Audiences are selfish.

If you grew up in the broadcast era, that’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s definitely reality. The digital environment empowers everyone to select programming they want to watch and avoid whatever they don’t. As a result, we each create our own networks around our own interests. This doesn’t mean there’s no place for corporate messages, it simply means we must adapt them to fit the environment. The more we find ways to align our corporate wants and needs with the wants and needs of a specific audience, the more our messages resonate. And the more our audience will share that content with like-minded people across their own networks, expanding our ideal audience for us. Simply put, the more we embrace narrowcast, the more success we’ll have with our digital video content.

And the less likely we’ll be to have meager view counts on our YouTube channels.

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unsplash-logoFrank Okay

Video: Evolving Beyond Selling

So yesterday, I was lucky enough to present for the West Michigan Content Strategy Meetup’s first-ever lunch and learn webinar.

Of course, being that it was ‘first ever’ and involved warring Apple and Google technology platforms, it was a bit of a car wreck; dropped signals, video blackouts, etc. But happily, like all things digital and video, you can fix it in post. So we did.

My thanks to my old friend Scott Smith and the charming and redoubtable Laura Bergells for making this a terrific experience, technical difficulties and all.

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Today’s Example of How Creativity Pays

Ad agencies struggle to convince clients to pay for creativity, mostly because we gave it away for years, trusting television’s healthy margins to more than cover the cost of development. And so we inadvertently devalued our industry’s one core asset that spans medium and format: the idea.

Which is why it’s so fun to hear the story of Max Lanman, who recently decided to help his girlfriend sell her car online. Actually, he used her old Honda to produce his idea of making a luxury car commercial around a junky car. Her vehicle was one of a whopping 382,298 Accords produced in 1996, but now, twenty one years and 141,000 miles later, her “Greenie” shows its age…

The thing is, this spot’s fun but not especially hilarious. A similar used car ad spoof featured on this blog back in May used outsized visual effects to far more hysterical effect. Yet the simple fact that Max took the time, made the effort, and did something delightfully unexpected in a tired, uninspiring venues made his work shine.

It also paid off handsomely. Kelley’s Blue Book values the Honda at just over $1400. After posting the spot on YouTube last Thursday, Max and his girlfriend listed the Accord on eBay for $500.

By the weekend, the bidding hit $150,000, and eBay took the listing down, understandably concerned about “illegitimate bidding.”

Now it’s back up and bidding currently hovers around $4300: almost ten times their initial asking price and well above the Blue Book value. All because of Max’s creative idea and approach.

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eBay also released this statement: “Mr. Lanman is a talented filmmaker and we’re pleased that the eBay platform brought us together. We’re hoping to work on some creative video projects with him in the future.

Wow. Nice work Max. Well played.

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Social Media Outrage: The Case for Embedding Anthropology

In a noisy trend seemingly endemic to today’s social media, the outrage machine cranked up again, this time against haircare brand Shea Beauty. The trigger for online scorn and trending hashtags like #SheaMoisture Apology is this seemingly-innocuous ad:

Okay, pretty young models pouting about hating their hair–what’s the problem?

The problem is simple: Shea Moisture was built as an African American brand. This market became its first loyalists, helping the brand gain more attention and grow to where it now has a presence in mega-chains like Target.

But this ad features three white young women and one very light skinned bi-racial one. At least until the end tag where more women of color appear in small sections of a graphic collage. Reading the comments on YouTube, it’s clear that Shea Beauty loyalists took immediate notice, and deeply resented it.

When social firestorms happen, I can’t help wondering if I would have made the same mistake. Yes, any creative would know the company is black owned. And that the core audience is also African American. But since clients approve, and often dictate, casting decisions, the issue is probably less about a dumb, subjective creative call and more about a strategic brand desire to ‘expand the base.’ Shea Beauty and their agency no doubt had nothing but the best intentions from a marketing perspective, along with data highlighting a market expansion opportunity with blondes and redheads.

And that’s exactly why I favor anthropology over planning. Anthropologists focus on audiences, not brand metrics. They study the people you hope to reach: their values, their economies, their rituals and sacrifices. Anthropology focuses on what aligns and motivates people, which is crucial now that marketing is a two way dialogue.

Research and planning inevitably focus on the advertiser’s wants, but brands no longer control the conversation. Using anthropology to better understand your audience protects you from becoming the worst kind of person in any social situation: the one that only talks about themselves.

Actually, if they listen, Shea Beauty’s audience even gave them the answer to the issue. YouTube commenter Lorietha Causey said this about the cut:

“why in the commercial they have a woman that looks bi-racial and then the other women are white and then at the end they show a background of different shades of women. I feel the ending should’ve been the beginning with of them having a say on the product.”

That’s a solid re-edit idea. And if they’re smart, Shea Beauty will listen to their loyalists, get back into edit, and fix this now; which is another advantage of our iterative digital world.

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Training The Next Generation

With 7+ billion people on the planet connected via the internet, there’s always so much to learn. Plenty of schools teach marketing and advertising, but like any craft, nothing beats the apprentice system.

Unfortunately, that rarely exists in agencies anymore. Instead, we hire affordable, young talent, throw them into the breach, then write off their inevitable mistakes as the style of today’s instant-posting culture.

Lots of us still remember where we once turned for inspiration and education: the glossy, heavy pages of Communication Arts. These perfect bound monthlies were hoarded and showcased like encyclopedias, filled with page after page of the highest examples of creativity. We studied. And learned. And improved.

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Luckily, for those entering the business today, Mike Fetrow launched a YouTube channel last month that aggregates terrific examples of commercial filmmaking. Advertising Organized Neatly curates playlists of the most remarkable vintage ads and content in themed groupings. For people entering the business, it’s like having a truly remarkable creative director guide you to the most inspiring work you never knew. Because that’s what it is.

Go, subscribe, and help save this world from more uninspired dreck.

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“Content”: Always a Noun, Never an Adjective

If you watch or read the work of Salim Ismail, you understand that today’s biggest business challenge is adapting our linear mindsets to an environment of exponential change. The pace of change is so fast that our assumptions of what’s known and valid are continually questioned, debunked, and reset. Which can be disorienting.

Consider content. As advertisers migrated from television to digital platforms, the demand for content exploded. Yet many clients’ mindsets remain stuck in TV-era thinking; if we make it, people will watch it.

Hardly.

Today’s media landscape is awash in content. Last July, YouTube’s CEO announced people upload 400 hours of content every minute of every day. That’s over THREE YEARS of video every hour. And that’s just YouTube. Facebook claims to generate 8 billion video views every day, Snapchat does six billion.

Clearly, the game has changed. And keeps changing.

Combine this new reality with the dropping price of computing power and ubiquity of motion graphics software which allows people all over the world to create the same beautiful 3D work that built DK’s reputation, and it begins to hit home how much we must keep evolving.

The world isn’t waiting for our work. Our every project must earn attention, drawing audiences to our exceptional ideas and amazing executions. And that’s just part of it.

Today, technology enables people down the street or across the ocean to produce similar work at a lower cost, so we must also provide our clients a superior experience. We must make working with Digital Kitchen more rewarding, more profitable, and more fun. We must continually find ways to add value and make working with us the best part of our clients’ days.

Yes, we make content. But we can never be content.

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Jean Claude Van DAMN–That’s Shareworthy!

I heart everything about this: the casting, the totally counter-intuitive music choice, the direct relationship between the action and the product benefit. And at nearly eight million views after a mere two days on YouTube, a lot of other people do too. I have scoured the net and not found a single plausible argument that this is a fake…

 


I hope it’s not. I want to believe in a world where action stars can continue to amaze us, even at fifty-three year old.

Happy Friday.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Pranking and The Simple Power of Surprise

Prank videos are not high art. They rarely feature very good production values.

But they are undeniably fun to watch. Because nothing cuts through the veneer of human pretense as quickly as surprise. You can’t front when you’re in the throes of a genuine reaction. This simple truth explains why those galleries of haunted house visitor reaction photos are so popular and so much fun.

“Rahat” is a leading internet practicioner of pranking, or in his case, magical pranking. This mono-monikered street magician hosts a popular YouTube channel that boasts nearly two and a half mllion subscribers. He regularly releases new magic pranks, all featuring peoples’ genuine reactions to his surprising tricks. The one above is his October entry and has already been picked up by outlets like The Huffington Post.

No, they’re not sophisticated. Look at his chosen title graphics: that’s the type of garish font one might associate with a wholesale liquidator outlet.

Still, it’s shareworthy content. Definitely shareworthy. Happy Friday!

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Music Monday: 70 Million Ylvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong

It’s stunning. A silly song that started as a promo for their Norwegian television has exploded across the globe to become  the most stubbornly-sticky riff since Gangnam Style. And it has done that by taking an equally goofy approach.

You’ve probably already seen this clip from the Norwegian comedy duo of Baard and Vegard Ylvisåkerfrom, known more commonly as “Ylvis.” And if you have young teenagers in the house, you can’t escape it. It started going viral from the moment it was released on September 3rd, earning 40 million YouTube views in its first two weeks alone. The song is catchy, the visuals are playfully dada-ist, and good natured silliness permeates the whole endeavor. It truly is hard not to watch it and smile. The levels of dry irony approach the Faulkerian. Remarkable.

Of course, contrast that with this striving, over-reaching opportunism from Abercrombie & Fitch. The quickly-declining yet cluelessly still elitist retailer of teen sex and fashion tried to hook their fading star to this global phenomenon, but where Ylvis celebrates the joyously and intentionally dopey, Abercrombie and their vapid sculpted shirtless models come off as smug and self satisfied (did they have to applaud themselves at the end?). About the only good thing to be said about this relentlessly uninventive ‘parody’ is that it lasts barely longer than a minute.

If you need a visual definition of ‘polar opposites,’ you can’t find a better example.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Agencies Don’t Make Clips Viral; Only The Public Does. And Jimmy Kimmel.

I really didn’t want to write about this. As the father of two daughters, my life would be rich and rewarding if I never had to type the word ‘twerking.’

But things happen, I guess.

Last week, all sorts of TV networks and online aggregators referenced a YouTube clip called “Worst Twerk Fail Ever-Girl Catches Fire!”. In no time, this 36-second clip of a twerking teenager apparently setting herself aflame in her living room went viral. It now has over eleven million views.

It also now has an extended version (posted below), which proves the incident was staged by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, disturbingly attired in a matching pink t-shirt.

On his show, Kimmel presented a montage of TV outlets suckered by his prank, boasting “To the conspiracy theorists who thought the video was fake, you were right, it was fake…Thank you for helping us deceive the world and hopefully put an end to twerking forever.”

If only Jimmy, if only…

Kimmel has used the internet brilliantly ever since he took the reins as a late night host, but this particular episode is remarkably instructional. His team actually produced the clip a full month before Miley Cyrus’ publicity-generating exhibition on the VMA’s.

Interestingly however, they did not leverage any of the social media power of Kimmel’s show itself. They never distributed or promoted the clip on their Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel. Instead, they simply leveraged that popular, trending search term in their clip’s title. And made sure the accompanying video was short, to be both easily consumed and easily-shared.

Smart guy, that Jimmy. Let’s hope his dreams of eliminating trends from the national dialogue comes true.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson