Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Media nouns and verbs

Not sure if it's just that I'm noticing them more, but there seem to be lots more people referring to online videos as 'virals', as if viral was something that agencies can make. But this made me think that perhaps this is part of a wider confusion between nouns and verbs when talking about media

1  /ˈmidiə/ [mee-dee-uh]
1. a pl. of medium.
2. (usually used with a plural verb) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely: The media are covering the speech tonight.

Means of communication that reach people widely could refer to pretty much anything. The telephone isn't a medium in this sense, as it is a one-to-one communication device. Media that can be one to one or one to many at the same time are basically anything on the internet, but it is an action - the action of uploading, repurposing, sharing, etc, that gives them their influence. Media have stopped being a place or a destination, and become an action.

(and don't get me started on the usually used with a plural verb!)
HT to John, who was talking about some other noun/verb confusion the other day)

Friday, 12 June 2009

Another Orange summer

It's June, festivals are on their way, the Glasto countdown has started, so it must be time to revisit two of the best brand ideas that have been around for a few years. Orange's Spot The Bull broke lots of online/offline boundaries last year, and this year looks like it's after the banner/microsite divide, using 3D (ish) expanding ads to create a very playable version of the game in-banner.
(that's the Flashtalking demo page - I wouldn't normally go to AOL Music, honest)
But some top UX design and Glasto tickets prizes pales compared to Orange's other work this week, which sees the launch of year two of RockCorps. Contagious claim it as a cliche for being too good

"Orange RockCorps represents a tidy fusion of as many new media clichés as you’d care to name. Branded Entertainment? Check. Social networking? Check. Corporate Social responsibility? Check. Essentially a programme encouraging youngsters to put in a couple of hours of community service in exchange for tickets to massive gigs, the real strength of the campaign/platform/whatever is in some phenomenal CRM (check, check, check). Regular yet unobtrusive missives from the RockCorps team promote line-ups and suggest projects with which one might want to get involved....User-generated content as WELL?"

To me though this is more about connecting - how to put a brand in the centre of a network. RockCorps connects people with good causes, it connects music fans with live music, it connects exclusive experiences with charitable donation...it CONNECTS. To quote Henry Jenkins (about the future of marketing generally, rather than specifically about RockCorps)

"it pulls people together and gives them something to do"

And as Contagious mentions, it looks like there is going to be a role for last year's participants to share their experiences to encourage this year's. And given Orange's track record for lighting lots of fires and sticking with the ones that burn, there will probably be more marketing support, more scale, and higher profile bands involved in this one.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Happiness and Demographics

Twelvety years ago, when I started working in media (well, ten if I have to count), attitudinal segmentation was very much the new thing. The idea that you could group people based on age and socio-demographics to inform a marketing strategy was understood to be too basic to be much use, while splitting the data held by TGI in too many segments was both counter-productive, and statistically unreliable as sample sizes quickly fell away to not enough to matter. So shared attitudes were seen as a cohesive centre around which target audiences could be compiled. Which is great, until you start building out a cluster group to make it statistically relevant, and find that the higher the numbers grow, the less interesting or defining that group is.

This seems to be really important in understanding the whole business of people and brands. For a lot of last century all media were mass, simply because media were expensive so there was no economic case other than mass production (ok there were punk, zines, comics, etc, but the Sex Pistols still had to sign to major labels to create a movement). Expensive media in the advertising world means that brand ideas have to be really simple, so that they can be communicated in 30". And really simple ideas make sense in mass demographics, because they have to be equally simple and appealing to lots of people. Thing is, grouping people by what makes them similar, by what is going to appeal to lots of them, means setting your sights on Average. Mean, median, whatever, demographics are all about average. And it's worth remembering that the average person has one breast and one testicle.

It is our personal interests, our hopes and emotions that really differentiate us, that really make us human. These are what no demographic survey can hope to understand; they wouln't make sense in demographics, as they would be averages again. But each of us has circles of friends who they share these interests and emotions with: who we hold data for. This hit me the other day in a meeting to work on a brief about happiness. Happiness is so incredibly personal, but also fundamentally linked to sharing experiences with other people, that it isn't a spreadable concept, but rather an inspirable one. A brand can't inspire happiness in large numbers of people (ok, of course it can, but by making better stuff or creating better experiences, not by advertising), but it can inspire happiness. It is the inspiration that is spread, not the emotion. This is fundamentally opposed to demographics, as it relies on each individual person joining in to mould, change or remix the idea into something unique to them that will make their friends, the people they know best, happy. And inspire them to change it again when they pass it on.

Can't tell you what we decided 'it' was, but at no point did the definition of 'it' include any reference to flashmobs. Or Facebook

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Ads that advertise ad agencies

You'd think that would be a dream brief: sell something that you believe in so much that you actually work there already, by doing your job well. So obviously I won't mention some of the websites that still exist (although the real shockers seem to be no more) on London agency servers. Instead, have a play with this stuff from Boone Oakley, which looks like a YouTube video but seems to have some clever linking stuff going on underneath.

Well obviously it IS a YouTube video, but it is also their website, powered by YouTube Annotations which effectively hyperlink a range of different clips. To make what is basically a YouTube microsite, which is a pretty cool thing to have. The only outward link from YouTube is not to their 'real' brochureware site, but to a Zazzle merchandise site from where you can buy images from the film. Only question is when some other agency will nick the idea for a client in a Modernista/Skittles type of way.
(HT to @vertico2k for the link)

Old Publishing New Publishing

Haven't done one of these for a while.... much changed?
Reading Mashable via Twitter - 783,000 people
Daily unique users of ALL UK newspaper websites - 1,770,000 people (Comscore Nov 08 - must update my log-in)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

McDonalds interactive outdoor ads - Piccadilly Circus

Ha ha, love this!

It's the start of tourist season in London; over a million visitors heading here over the next three months, and seemingly all converging on Piccadilly Circus. So McDonalds have found a neat use of their digital billboard there to give people something interesting to do, which is designed to inspire creativity and sharing of home-made media. It looks a bit like t

so gives people witty backgrounds to put their friends in. There's an official Flickr group, which does only contain 105 pictures so far (some of which look suspiciously like Leo Burnett folk might have taken them to kick the group off), but to be fair it only went live last week. Here's a couple of images: (photo credit - Flickr user Monty Verdi)

(photo credit - Flickr user Dan.Outram)
And a video....

I love the simplicity of this idea: taking the classic Leaning Tower of Pisa holiday snap, and inspiring people to go out and create their own. Let's face it, everyone who visits London ends up at Piccadilly Circus, and there's not that much to do there. Are branded holiday snaps a new media channel?
(HT to Alexander Wipf at Leo Burnett Frankfurt for the link)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Mapumental - useful, data-rich, it rocks!

This is very very cool: Mapumental by MySociety builds data from GoogleMaps, public transport timetables, average house prices and a 'scenicness' game that has built up a pool of data on the most scenic places in Britain, to make (what looks like) a really useable guide on where to live in the UK. It's in private Beta, which I haven't managed to acquire yet, so I've only seen the video. But having seen the video I can't wait. It really is an incredibly useful, straightforward tool that I can see helping a lot of people.
(tip-off from Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing)