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Posts Tagged ‘Virals’

I’ve read and heard hundreds of definitions of brands over the years and while many of them are compelling in one way or another, most of them get bogged down in intellectualism.  To me, the definition is simple: brands are opinions.  

Of course, thinking of your brand as a collective opinion of your market reveals the classic notion of brand management as a rather hollow conceit.  Today’s socially-networked, highly-viral world enables the exchange of opinions with unprecedented reach and speed, thus the idea of ‘management’ overpromises; a more precise word would be ‘advocacy.’

How You Feel About a Brand = The Brand

How You Feel About a Brand = The Brand

Further, the Web 2.0 revolution means we no longer control every brand conversation.  To be truly effective today, we must move beyond the static concept of reporting structure management to a more nimble, balls-of-your-feet stance. Protecting and advancing consumers’ often quicksilver opinions demands we stay highly aware, consistently focused, and quickly responsive.

When I first started this blog, the convergence of digital and traditional advertising seemed critical to this changing industry.  Yet despite all the jawing and posturing, that is currently well underway; digital agencies are hiring traditional agency people and digital people are increasingly mainstreamed within traditional agencies.

Nevertheless, convergence remains the central issue, but it is increasingly the convergence of advertising and public relations.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Relax: A Haircut Does Not Constitute A Makeover 

 

Relax: A Haircut Does Not Constitute A Makeover

Now that her clips from “Britain’s Got Talent” have earned well over 1oo,ooo,ooo hits in a little over a week, it’s time to get some sense of the Susan Boyle phenomenon.  Anytime something hits popular culture with this type of intensity, some will find a way to profit while others will suffer.  A highly-unscientific sampling of blogs and news stories reveal at least some early winners and losers.

On the upside, her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” seems to be revitalizing interest in the twenty-two year old Broadway hit Les Miserables. Over the past week, the soundtrack spiked back into the iTunes Top 10 and Amazon’s Top 25.  Local show productions have seen increases in ticket sales, including one Vancouver company that reported sales tripling between Tuesday and Friday of last week.  Other productions saw their Google page impressions skyrocket, with one California production’s page impressions rising from 7,000 to 50,000 in about a week. 

Clearly, Simon Cowell has won as well, by developing and producing the program and potentially providing a label for Susan’s future work.  And yet, since his production company Freemantle Media hasn’t made a penny off her groundbreaking number of video hits, one could argue that he’s also lost.   After all, the standard record label revenue-sharing model for music videos on YouTube would have paid $500,000.  Even worse, YouTube admitted they haven’t run a single ad alongside any or her posted clips as well, so they too missed a potential bonanza.

Amidst all the posted discussions, one of the more compelling and controversial essays on this topic appeared on the Silicon Alley Insider site.  Benjamin Wayne, CEO of Fliqz, posted an essay titled “YouTube is Doomed” which paints an incredibly harsh portrait of what he terms “the viral-video bubble economy.”  He draws most of his metrics from a recent Credit Suisse report pegging YouTube’s 2009 losses at nearly half a billion dollars, primarily due to their voracious, ever-expanding need for bandwidth and glaring lack of advertising dollars.

Essentially, Wayne argues that YouTube’s parent company Google won’t be able—or willing–to afford sensations like Susan Boyle.  Of course, Wayne’s POV is not universal; a number of very vocal and informed critics immediately posted responses taking both the author and the site’s editor to task for not clearly announcing that, though a tiny fraction of their size, Wayne’s company Fliqz is a YouTube competitor, which certainly colors his perspective.

At this point, after hundreds of millions of viewings and billions of written words, what can we learn from the Susan Boyle sensation?  Probably three things.  First; the online video industry will certainly change to try to monetize these unusual cultural events.  Second; the online video industry’s ability to monetize these cultural events will remain decidedly uncertain.

And finally, everyone everywhere delights in the unexpected joy of a true surprise. Good on you Susan.

 By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

PS:  On a related if not entirely congruent side note, my friend Mark Wegener wonders why everyone is amazed that “ugly people can sing: what, haven’t people heard of Willie Nelson?  Neil Young?  Meatloaf? “

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“Traditional agencies are dead.  Blah, blah, blah…”  Yeah, I get it.  But just like yesterday’s tired cliche of the misinformed: “Big Agencies are dead”, I don’t buy this notion either, because upon review, I can’t name a single ‘traditional’ agency.  These days, everyone plays in the digital space, everyone has some experience with online or event or email platforms.  So anyone who hires organizations to develop ideas for them shouldn’t be surprised when those organizations think beyond TV, radio and print.tradition1

And yet that attitude persists.  Clients have been so deeply schooled in the need for specialists that the concept that anyone might imagine outside their own particular box seems remarkable, even revolutionary.

This makes no sense.  Sure, we often engage specialty partners at our agency, and I’m usually very glad for their expertise and experience.  But as someone who dreams things up for a living, I have a problem with “agencies” that restrict themselves to tightly-defined boundaries like “digital” or “multi-cultural.”  At one time in our industry history, they were definitely necessary to drive change, but these days, convergence renders these sorts of agency delineations as increasingly dated.  A digital production house?  Sure, but a digital agency?  Why would a client want to hire a craftsman with just one wrench in their toolbox?  The leading digital agencies continue to staff up with traditionally-trained creatives to meet clients’ needs for TV and other ‘traditional’ media.  Today, any organization that delivers ideas can’t legitimately claim to think solely in one channel.   If so, then they limit their creativity to specific formats that serve their specialty instead of their brands.  

The conceit that only a viral agency can make viral videos is patently absurd: our “Ballgirl” film for Gatorade was last Summer’s biggest viral hit.  The conceit that content must come from a separate agency makes no sense: we created a seven episode online series that followed the US Soccer Women’s team on their successful quest for the Gold last year.  We developed games for clients big and small, we built video and flash based rich media banners, Facebook apps, MySpace programs, and Super Bowl events.  When we turn for production help from outside vendors, they are the same vendors outsourced by specialist firms.

A bubbling human imagination obeys no borders or limitations as it dreams up new possibilities.  If there still are any “traditional” agencies in America, they face imminent extinction.

That said, every evolving agency dealing with convergence and working to establish their reputation in new areas has one looming responsibility: selling themselves.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Perception v Reality: A Fightcard Perennial            

Perception v Reality: A Fightcard Perennial

In the marketing business, the smart money always lays down for perception.  And in today’s converging marketing business, that creates a classic brand challenge for traditional agencies: how do you enhance perception for your own company’s brand?

Last week during a TV shoot, a client announced that he had hired a ‘viral’ agency.  In his mind, they offered what we couldn’t because they specialize in viral–that’s all they do.  Further, they’re young and we’re old.

Really?  Huh…

Never mind that this viral agency’s calling card remains a nearly five year old effort that made a naughty but modest splash compared to our traditional agency’s “Ballgirl” effort that grew into the biggest viral hit of last Summer.  And really never mind that any marketer paying attention has already moved past the rather simplistic ‘views = viral’ mindset to require added dimensions and brand engagements for a deeper consumer experience beyond mere view counts.

No, in cases like these, facts don’t matter: perception does.  As it always does. Perception–even misperception–is reality.

On our already crowded agency ‘to do’ list, clearing those up just shot to the top.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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