Category Archives: Marketing/Advertising

Clicking On This Ad Will Disrupt Your Video

The other day I was perusing through the movie trailers on Rotten Tomatoes. As I was enjoying one trailer in particular, I noticed an ad to the immediate right of the main player (ad pictured above). It was a video ad, and it came along with an interesting message: “Clicking on this ad will not disrupt your video.

Now, I understand the intent behind this message. They mean to say that clicking on their video ad would not stop the video I’m currently watching. How thoughtful of them. In other words, their video ad would just start playing with its audio blaring over the video I’m already watching. Yea. Just like they said, not disruptive at all.

This got me thinking about the subtly intrusive nature of this type of advertising. Does it even make sense for a video ad to be made playable next to another video?

Sure. I could always have the interest to click on it when my video is over, but then why have that message there in the first place? The message almost seems to suggest I should click on their video ad while my video is in action, which, quite clearly, makes no sense.

Video advertising has its place in pre-roll, next to static content and on YouTube, but as far as this placement is concerned: either ditch the confusing message, or don’t be next to my videos at all.

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Technology: The Barrier?

Technology continues to become part of our lives, and it’s inevitable that we find a push against it. Just as Henry David Thoreau set out into the woods to practice Transcendentalism–named so, literally for the idea of transcending the impact of the industrial revolution and returning humanity back to a state of nature–we found ourselves facing a similar conflict.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s a marvel that I can send an email halfway around the world in a single click–especially when there was a time one would have to wait weeks, if not months, for the same correspondence. And let’s not forget the fact that you can read this post from wherever you are in the world right now. We owe a lot to the power of our technological age. So why the resistance?

Ph.D. of Anthropology, Grant McCracken, explains his understanding of the recent fondness for low-fidelity products. In his post, McCracken posits three reasons. One is simply our own nostalgia. We always miss what we used to have, even if it’s been improved. We always look back on the past as “simpler times,” while growing aggravated with the advancements which obscure that cherished, rose-colored view. The second “is a wish for groundedness.” McCracken suggests that the world has become too shiny and seamless, and, as a result, has lost its aesthetic of authenticity. In other words: we like the imperfections, because everything has become too damn perfect. The third reason suggests that lo-fi products reflect the way we view our world now–the idea that technology has made our world simpler, and, at the same time, way more complex, distracting and fragmented than we ever bargained.

Even the people my age–the ones called “Digital Natives” for having grown up with all this technology–find comfort in the idea of disposable cameras in the face of accessible, professional grade quality. And that’s what makes Pilot’s newest website a brilliant piece of work.

You can view the video below for an explanation, but the hook is this: our words have lost their personal touch since switching to these “modern typewriters” we call computers. Nowadays, we all communicate in the same crisp, clean digital fonts, and Pilot has created the means for anyone to bring their handwriting to the computer.

Intentional or not, Pilot has tapped into the Lo-Fi trend by speaking directly to the issue, blurring the line between our own handwriting and the technology that has obscured it. What a great way to draw people back to the idea of writing by hand, and creating something share-worthy under the banner of your pen brand. And, while handwritten fonts are nothing new, the ease of use this application provides is something certainly novel.

My only complaint with the concept is that it does not allow the user to download the font permanently to their computer. Rather, you’re limited within the confines of the site to use the font. This is a bit short-sighted on Pilot’s end. One would expect a major drop off after the first use if it requires signing in every time you want your font.

Had these restrictions been removed and allowed users to propagate, Pilot might have seen an increase of people using their handwritten fonts on blogs, in email exchanges and even in printed mail. Instead this great idea is held back by its own self-imposed constraints. Still, much credit to the planners behind this one. The method and the message are dead on.

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Where To Begin

This blog was never abandoned; just prioritized to the point of not being a priority.

In the course of time since my last post one might imagine much has taken place. One would be right.

First, I was working full-time freelance, copywriting for the boutique NYC ad agency, Fly Communications. While there, I handled web work for books under the Scholastic brand, dabbled in some new business pitches for Israel Tourism and the Harry Potter Book Series, and wrote some direct marketing pieces for American Express OPEN.

Commuting between New Jersey and New York, the basic gist of my life at that time was: eat, train, work, eat, work, train, eat, sleep, repeat. I used my weekends to enter a short story contest (I didn’t win) and act as a contributing writer to a Gen-Y blog project known as The Next Great Generation, or TNGG. This lifestyle carried on for around four months when a copywriter position opened up at Mullen Boston. “We’d like you to interview.” And so I did.

Now I’ve been in Boston since the beginning of February, working as a junior copywriter in Mullen’s digital creative department. It’s a great office filled with great folks and great thinking. I talk just as freely to people with a C in their title as I do with the interns. And don’t let the moniker “digital creative department” fool you, my position has me work equally on both digital and traditional media.

Once at Mullen, I first faced the matter of settling in and getting into the groove of all the separate brands I would work on. Then it became a matter of our new business pitch for the airline jetBlue. Being involved on that–working through four weekends in a row–it was a challenge that affirmed why I love what I do. The fact that we won their business didn’t hurt, either.

Now I’m all settled in, working hard and have my weekends back (sort of). That brings us back to this blog. Admittedly, I could have rebooted it sooner, but paralysis set in when I saw the date of my last post. I was a bit embarrassed. It was the internet equivalent of a bookshelf covered in dust and cobwebs.

So what was I to do? How would I overcome this anxious feeling? Where to begin? I thought today, and this post, would be a good start.

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Who Notices The Tadpole?

Picture 9 23-29-18StrawberryFrog is an agency I respect for both its personal branding and client work. When I first clicked on their site and browsed through the case studies, I was pretty impressed. Their philosophy revolves around the idea of creating a “cultural movement,” finding the ground on which a brand can equally stand and resonate with its intended audience. It’s supposed to be more than messaging–it’s about creating an idea where people want to be involved, hence, a movement. To better illustrate this, I highly recommend viewing the case studies on their site for Scion and Microsoft.

Although I’ve been a freelance copywriter for over a year, my dream job has been, and continues to be, obtaining a full-time position within an ad agency. Times are tough and I knew for a fact that StrawberryFrog had laid off seven of its junior level staff this past Summer. It’s clear they wouldn’t be hiring me, but maybe an internship was still possible. Ignoring the financial strain behind the prospect, I submitted my resume, portfolio, and cover letter to the email address specified by their secretary. There was no response and I’m not surprised. I’ve seen HR departments, they receive hundreds of resumes on a daily basis, nowadays even more, and the method I took wouldn’t help me stand out from any of them.

That’s when I had an idea.

Among all the collateral on StrawberryFrog’s site they feature an interactive booklet titled, frog versus dinosaur. In a children’s story format, it details how the big established agencies are “dinosaurs” and why StrawberryFrog is the next evolution in advertising. It’s fun, cheeky, and gives me a sense of their personality. Look through it first otherwise my next step is going to seem crazy, although that might be true regardless.

I decided to write and illustrate my own interactive booklet. Taking cues from their art style, I crafted a story about a StrawberryTadpole who one day dreamt of becoming a StrawberryFrog. For those slow on the metaphors, StrawberryTadpole is me. Once I created a gmail account for the occasion, I sent this booklet to the original address as well as the direct email of the Chief Executive, Scott Goodson, and, his second-in-command, Tiffany. But I didn’t stop there. I also created a twitter account @strawberrytpole, writing tweets from the character’s voice and @ing the Chief Executive when appropriate. All of this took place on October 7th and continued forward from that date–I waited, I tweeted, and hoped for the start of a conversation.

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After all the time since October 7th, I received two responses. One was from a guy looking for work at StrawberryFrog, he read my booklet and thought I already worked there (at least I look the part). The other was on twitter from the Chief Executive himself, stating, “Cool.” In fact, due to the timing of the @ reply, his response likely wasn’t directed at the story I made, rather a tweet I sent him about a great pumpkin carving.

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That’s the end of it. I couldn’t get a basic conversation, let alone discuss working for free. So, why post this failure at all? I could have kept it a secret and saved myself the shame. It’s because there’s no shame in taking a risk. I refused to sit idly and hope to get noticed–I got off my ass and tried to make things happen for myself. And, like a lot of good risks, it failed. I’m proud of the booklet I made. I’m proud of myself for taking a chance, dedicating hours to a project I knew full well might have zero return. And, the best part is, I’ll just keep moving on to the next thing, taking another risk. If StrawberryFrog ever decides to talk to me, they’re welcome to do so. The door is always open, I’m just not waiting by it anymore.

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Burger King Receives Your Anger

I was having a gentle day.No, the brand hasn’t sparked outrage with a more risqué version of its Spongebob/Sir Mix-A-Lot dance, but it does have a new menu item hitting the Canadian market. The Angry Whopper is proclaimed to be the spiciest addition (check video after the jump) to the BK menu featuring jalapeño slices, pepper jack cheese, spicy onion rings, and a spicy “Angry Sauce.” In the spirit of the item’s launch ad agency, TAXI 2, has created a microsite where users can see the level of their anger when they vent into the ANGRRROMETER. With access to your computer’s webcam and microphone, the site utilizes facial recognition and voice software to rank your anger appropriately. I tested it out and as you can see from above I’m obviously too laid back for this site.

You have to love the little touches they added, like spraying rainbows and butterflies across my face to indicate the weakness of my anger. It’s an entertaining microsite and is a great example of interactive. Most importantly, it translated the big idea in an engaging way that can be shared with my friends.

Of course, my one complaint regarding all spicy fast food advertising is that it’s never as spicy as the commercial suggests. Not even close. I’ve had the Angry Whopper, it’s probably a 3 out of 10 in terms of heat. It’s the same deal with Taco Bell or Wendy’s. Of course, that’s not to say it wasn’t a tasty burger. It’s just that when I see someone pouring ice down their throat after screaming “HOT! HOT!” I expect a little more kick. Now that’s something for me to be angry about.

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Google Sailing School?

I knew little about sailing other than I loved it–a fact I wished to remedy this Summer. But where to begin? For as little as I knew about sailing, I knew even less about sailing schools. I started my search with a close friend, having known that her brother went to a maritime college and her mother was a highly skilled sailor, I hoped she might have a recommendation for a reputable school in my area. My friend was at a loss. Her family lives in Japan and though her mother was American born, even she had no suggestions regarding schools in NJ. So I did what anyone my age would do, I googled.

I typed “nj sailing school” into the search engine and found four schools which popped up on the first page of results. From there I made my initial impressions based on their websites and pricing, but ultimately I decided I would have to visit each one in person before I made my final decision. Even the cheapest one seemed expensive to me, so I wanted to make sure I would be getting my money’s worth. 

I made the day trip and visited each school. I was able to meet with the staff and instructors as well as get a feeling for their rental availability. After all, what’s the point of learning to sail if I don’t have a boat to sail with after the course? Ultimately, I chose Nelson Sailing Center and went on to become ASA certified in Basic Keelboat Sailing.

The contrast between their site and their actual facilities justifies my instinct to visit all the locations in person. What I had initially written off as a questionable business turned out to be the most well run and professional (CSS abilities aside) of the four options. Moreover, they were the only school to mandate that I read through 180 pages of text and watch a one hour instructional DVD before I could even meet my instructor on the water. They took my education seriously and that’s how they won my business.

What interests me most are my hindsight observations as a consumer entering this market for the first time. My initial instinct was word-of-mouth because I knew someone who might be able to help and I valued their opinion over anything else. When that hit a dead end, and, with no prior brand awareness to direct my search, Google became my only option. This speaks to a long-understood importance of SEO. For all I know there is a better school out there that would have been cheaper or had more renowned staff, but, the fact is I’ll never know if they never ranked high enough in Google to become part of my consideration set. Simply put, a brand must exist in Google’s top 10 in order to exist at all.

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Creativity, Anyone?

Sun

 
“I’m not creative.” I get it all the time and I say get over it. You are, I am, the whole world is, or at least it would be if we didn’t beat it out of ourselves by age 18 . The scariest part is I find the divide worse off in the places where it should be furthest from existence: advertising agencies. By the very fact that there is a “creative department” we run into an exclusionary issue. What seems like a harmless label to describe the work of one department thereby tells other departments they do not deserve that label. In other words, “this department is creative and yours isn’t, so there.” *sticks out tongue*

Call it psycho babble, but I think this has a profound effect on the motivation and quality of thinking in the work place. Do I have study results showing direct correlation? Nope, but the gut feeling is there and remains whenever I interview for a position. I don’t just want to work in a creative department, I want to work in a creative agency–the type of environment that fosters creativity through all levels and department positions. Let the ideas lead and let them generate from everywhere and anyone. Few agencies put enough emphasis on this prospect although some are getting there.

CPB Group has it listed directly within their employee handbook on page 7 under “Your Sensei.” It is said that you are assigned a mentor called a sensei and “most importantly, your sensei will be in a different department than you. We have found that departments are necessary to get the work done, but we have also found that the more people ignore departmental boundaries, the better it is for the work. That is why it is always a good idea when media people come up with creative ideas, and creatives come up with planning solutions, and production people come up with media ideas, and so on and so forth. For this cross-pollination to happen, you will have to become comfortable in the other departments and what they do.”

R/GA is another example which has created their own model to address their focus on digital services. Taken from the July/Aug 2009 issue of Communication Arts, “the agency has been set up so that groups work in multi-disciplined teams–technologists partner with copywriters, designers, researchers and planners. The teams collaborate on projects from start to finish, instead of handing off ideas to separate departments or outside suppliers.” Because the ideas can flow easily between copywriter, producer, et al, the end result does not become disjointed, nor does it require longer turn-around time due to volleys of e-mails just to stay on the same page. If isolation is an issue with departments, what do you about multiple agency locations? Employee growth has caused R/GA to take its commitment a step further with a newly-minted program series called R/GA University; creating open thought provision across disciplines and departments within their entire network–that is putting your size to use. The message is clear; if your departments (or agency locations) are isolated, then your work might as well be outsourced.

As for those tiny creative hot shops that you hear about? Thanks to their smaller size it usually allows greater ease of communication and project awareness between all the staff.

The result: Love’em or hate’em, these agencies have produced consistently successful work at all levels. All three examples allow ease of communication between department levels and a shared sense of effort toward the common goal of improving the client. It’s no longer every department for herself, it’s every agency for her client.

Though I haven’t yet worked at these agencies, I can attest to their models. When I worked on the National Student Advertising Competition at Emerson College in 2008, we adopted a similar approach. Every day started and ended with a live update from each department presented to the rest of our team. We always knew what everyone else was doing and it was made clear that anyone could drop by a department to contribute their thoughts even if they weren’t officially within that department. In effect, this led to better thinking across the board and allowed us to hone some initially far-flung concepts into leaner, pitch-ready executions.

And yet, only a small percentage of company cultures embrace these progressive models. In an age where companies can thrive solely from the power of an open source model, it’s amazing how many still fail to trust the untapped creativity beyond the walls of their creative department.

Imagine that impact on the business. A creative idea in research might mean doing something non-traditional. Maybe focus groups and surveys aren’t the answer this time. Perhaps if you fostered creativity in that department they would feel inclined to go the innovative route for gathering qualitative data. Creativity in media planning is just as important. Where is it being placed? When are things top of mind for your audience? If your media team is willing to be as creative as the messaging it is given, it will work hard to both imagine and execute on the best ways to reach your audience. Or, even better, the media team will have a great idea that lives outside its department while other departments provide great ideas that live within media.

In point, every department should be a creative department.

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