The most effective mass media is the stories we tell and conversations we have with each other. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.
We've all seen an endless number of ads for cars, car dealerships, and the like. If I think really hard, I may be able to remember a few of them. Let’s see… I remember the Volkswagen ad with Kid Vader (but mostly because it was so talked-about, not because I thought it was so effective). I remember the Toyota Celica ads in which the senior citizen sees a parked Celica and yells, “Slow down. This is a neighborhood!” If you gave me 10 more minutes, I could probably think of another three to five, but not much more. Considering how many car ads I’ve seen in my lifetime, that’s a pretty low recall rate, and I can assure you that none of them influenced my purchase decisions.
For decades, advertising was a joyous place. Executives enjoyed two-martini lunches as they watched the ad dollars roll in. Ads were spread through every new medium—from print to radio to television. Ad agencies were held to vague benchmarks, and they promised massive exposure (as measured by metrics like number of print subscribers, average daily travelers passing by a billboard or number of television purchases) to the highest bidder. Brands blindly believed that these metrics (potential eyeballs) meant guaranteed success.
Advertising still is a joyous place, but for different reasons. Two-martini lunches are a thing of the past (or at least I’m not invited to them). But martinis aside, advertising in the post-advertising age is filled with amazing creativity and opportunities to constantly challenge the status quo, innovate and reach audiences with unique and authentic content.
Back in South East England, rolling through the mists of time (well, the late ’70s...), to when my main mode of transport was a space hopper and Pong was the ultimate in console gaming, I was taken to the cinema by my parents every week. Back then, local adverts were played between the B and A movies as part of the show: ‘Wedding dresses...’, ‘The sharpest suits...’, ‘The best chicken tikka in town... only 50 yards from this theatre’, they would announce with pride. Here’s a relatively high-production value advert for Cobb Gate Fish Bar, in case you are unfamiliar with the format.
It’s difficult to define what “existence” even means in today’s digital age, when social technologies are imagined, developed, funded, adopted and acquired by a media conglomerate (often Facebook) in a matter of months, not years. Myspace is technically still in existence (I had to test it in my browser as I wrote this, just to be sure), but it’s far from relevant anymore in the social sphere. If Facebook goes the same route, I’ll concede defeat.
But I don’t expect to be in that situation come 2020. Though Wall Street is panicking about the stock price, which has shrunk by nearly half, Facebook is a game-changing technology, and technologies like that don’t just fade away in less than a decade. As we do the automobile, we can’t image what we ever did or would do without it. It’s a technology that we seemingly never saw coming (as opposed to a smartphone or tablet, which were arguably natural evolutions in product innovation), and technologies like that are special.
So if I’m so confident about the future of Facebook, where do I think it’s going? What do I think it will look like in seven to 10 years? As technology is moving so quickly, it would be futile for me to speculate on exactly what Facebook may be at that time, but here are four that opportunities could help sustain the platform.
Great user-generated content (UGC) should not exist in a vacuum—it should be reused, when and where appropriate, to bring color and authenticity to a brand’s marketing.
As brands expand their social-media footprints, many have also (smartly) placed more emphasis on engaging with their fans. As a result, they’ve begun proudly featuring selected consumer contributions in print, TV and online advertising. Dedicated fans often create a gold mine of content that’s just waiting to be explored, and in due course, brands have begun to dip into this resource. It’s the easiest and most direct way to build relationships with customers, because their passion for their favorite brands makes them happy to respond and share their stories—messages that are infinitely more compelling than what the brand might say.
Here are some great ways to use freely made consumer-generated content from social channels to great effect.
Tumblr is doing things differently. While Facebook and Twitter constantly load up on new features—many of which premiere to groans from avid users—Tumblr is scaling down and making things simpler in order to foster a positive artistic community. Tumblr also stands out by refusing to employ traditional digital-advertising methods. With more than 64 million blogs and 15 billion monthly page views, Tumblr could easily make millions through display, banner or video ads. But founder David Karp is sticking to his guns and rejecting anything he deems counter-creative. Instead he is focusing on a more holistic, integrated form of advertising wherein the brands involved must create great content on Tumblr. But given that the platform hosts edgy content (most recently, the disturbing “Holmies" sect) and is still largely pigeonholed as a place for fanatics and fanatical sharers, is this just wishful thinking?
The commercials for Dish Network’s ad-skipping DVR, the Hopper, are quite memorable and humorous to a native of Massachusetts, like me. The actors have thick Boston accents, and they repeatedly pronounce the name of the device the way any good Red Sox fan would: “Hop-ah.”
It’s ironic, though, that the Hopper’s commercials are so memorable. The device’s primary function is to eliminate commercials altogether. The Hopper automatically records the entire prime-time lineups for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. With a little user programming, however, many digital video recorders (DVRs) can do that. What sets the Hopper apart is that it enables playback completely sans commercials (versus fast-forwarding over them). Score another point for ad-slaying technology in the post-advertising age.
Think of the last pharmaceutical commercial you saw. It probably involved scenes of nature: people doing normal things like sitting in bathtubs on a hilltop and walking on the beach. But what was the name of the drug it was advertising? You can’t remember, can you? That’s because 99 percent of the pharma commercials created are exactly the same, and they all blend into a soft-focus, elevator-music-tinged, generic pile of boredom.
This unending cycle of mediocrity can be prevented. I’ll take a look at a typical pharma commercial and then give it a makeover, as well as give you tips for making sure your pharmaceutical brand stands out. You should, of course, consult your marketing agency before making these changes.
At last week’s first-ever Facebook Marketing Conference (fMC for short), Facebook officially announced the integration of four new products into their advertising model. These additions represent the most invasive placements on the social networking site yet. For the first time, they’ve placed ads within the previously untainted News Feed (on both desktop and mobile sites)—a move that speaks volumes of Facebook’s new trajectory.
We’ve all seen it before: Marketers create an innovative social media campaign only to have it squashed by the legal department into a bland, lifeless lump of the original idea. Sadly, many archaic legal departments are wary of social media at best and digitally illiterate at worst. Their fear of embracing these tools can be a barrier for brands that want to interact with their audiences in authentic, transparent and engaging ways. But that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t sacrifice creativity (or throw out their old-school legal department) just yet.