internet, social networking, user-generating

Hyped Facebook faces it’s Trough of Disillusionment

according to figures released by Nielsen Online, Facebook saw it’s number of users fall 5% to 8.5 million in January from 8.9 million in December, the first drop in user numbers since July 2006 when Nielsen began compiling data on the site.

many have been quick to announce the beginning of the end for the social networking site.  Nic Howell, deputy editor of New Media
Age, has stated that the site is no longer as popular among its core audience of
young people, commenting:

"Social networking is as much about who isn’t on the
site as who is – when Tory MPs and major corporations start profiles on
Facebook, its brand is devalued, driving its core user base into the
arms of newer and more credible alternatives,"
he said.

there’s no doubt that this exclusivity factor has played a role in the plateauing of Facebook’s usage, and to that I’d add the plethora of requests and forced applications it’s users receive, as well as the hack-handed nature of advertising on the site…  in June last year I commented that:

"you can try putting an ad on facebook, but I wouldn’t
recommend it; facebook is a place and space for friends, and a pushed
media impact from a keen brand is an invasion – unless a brand suceeds
in rewarding my just for watching it (for example Virgin Media feeding
me live Big Brother updates, rather than a banner asking me to sign up
full post here 

as could have been predicted, I’ve since then seen more banners on Facebook than at a Mardi Gras parade.  but all that aside, does this really mean an inevitable spiral in the popularity of the social networking site?  arguably not.  we’re perhaps more likely witnessing the third phase of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, the Trough of Disillusionment, in which technologies fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable.
Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.  sound familiar?

image source: Jeremy Kemp

this would arguably explain why smaller (and relatively newer) social networks continue to see growth – they still find themselves in the post-Trigger growth phase.

so be braced for lots of Facebook and Social networking bashing over the course of 2008.  Mediation predicts that plateau will be reached at some point in the future, with a smaller but more loyal user-base at it’s core.

one last plea to advertisers; we are fueling the trough by using Facebook and it’s counterparts for broadcast banner advertising.  we need to be better than that…  how can a brand’s presence enhance and complement a user experience?  if it can’t, it shouldn’t be there.

advertising, branding, engaging, internet, planning

There now follows a simple exercise in Building Brand Associations…

Mm_dark…courtesy of M&Ms.  this is quite old now but I just came across it today whilst browsing a post  by

so you’re M&Ms and you want people to know and remember that you have a new product in the form of Dark Chocolate.  you could invest in an ad that communicates this and deploy thru relevant and effective media, or

…you could get consumers to find out and then re-enforce (multiple times over) the association for themselves via an online game where you have to find 50 hidden movies – all of which have a ‘dark’ theme.

this is stand out for two reasons.  one, only the buffest of movie buffs will know all the answers, so you’re compelled to pass it on and try to work out the answers amongst your mates.  it’s very sociably-networkable.  which is good.

secondly this little piece stands out for the sheer elegant simplicity with which it has been put together.  using flash you navigate your way around the image, zooming in and out as you go.  and once you’ve spotted and noted a movie it blacks out, allowing you to focus on the remaining movies you haven’t got yet.  infuriatingly addictive and of course very easy to pass on to others to inflict the same brand association building on them.

click here to play but be warned; it’s addictive.


Standing Out from the Superbowl Crowd

so I couldn’t end the week without making reference to the media buying event of the last week…  first some stats (courtesy of Contagious Magazine) – Super Bowl XLII was tuned into by a total
of 148.3 million viewers world-wide.  Commercial time for the intervals
was valued at approximately $86,000 per second, or $2.7 million for
half a minute.  Oh, and just for reference, the total amount of popcorn
consumed during the behemothic game was enough to stretch around the
world nearly five and a half times.

all very impressive.  indeed you’d hope that upon media real estate of that value, some fairly magnificent structures would be built…  and some were.  you can catch all the ads courtesy of Adage here.  highlights include Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons fighting over an equally large bottle of Coca-Cola above New York, Will Ferrell suggesting we all grab a Bud Light and ‘Suck One’, which interestingly is exactly what happened to a game Justin Timberlake who spends much of a promo spot for Pepsi being invisibly dragged along on his arse.

but for all their grandeur and flawless execution, all the ads were outdone by the above little bit of work from Fox, promoting the Superbowl itself.  the piece could have been a catastrophe, and indeed has caused not a small amount of discussion (of which a little can be read here).  however it seems to have genuinely captivated not just the audience but the very spirit of the occasion.  writing in Campaign this week Mark Wnek writes:

"This had disaster written all over it and yet…  and yet, turned out to be so utterly mesmerizing a delivery that it completely poured cold water over everything that commercially followed"

a view echoed by one Ed who posted (see the above debate link):

"Such a B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. commercial.  BEST one in decades c/o
Superbowl.  All the rest, including half time, sucked so bad.
Advertisers & Investors alike, need to rechannel their creative
minds, and stop using ’stupidity’ (like Will Ferrell & witty ad
campaigns) to win their audiences’ attention.  It’s boring.  Super 3D CGI
can only complete so much, but in the end, it’s about the quality, the
words, and the product.  So please, to all you advertisers out there,
STOP BEING SO DAMN CHEAP & Selfish. Come up with a solid &
meaningful pitch, please."

there may be a lesson here… that the very nature of the advertiser / viewer contract gets reversed on an occasion like this.  perhaps the Superbowl does require more than beer and car ads.  perhaps the point of advertising in the superbowl is not to capitalise on the scale of the audience, but to acknowledge and augment it.  what the above Fox spot did was to add a sense of grandeur and occasion to the Superbowl.  it was and is ‘event-making’ in the best possible way.

the UK lacks an equivalent to the Superbowl (I don’t think the X-Factor final really counts), but there are surely occasions even in the UK when advertisers need to back away from just capitalising on a big audience and reverse the logic of their buying the space…  brands should revel in the grandeur of an event, and in doing so help to make that event and it’s aggregation of audience more meaningful as a result of their being there.

engaging, experiencing

Seeing beyond the Stunt…

thanks to Jonathan Pearson for this link…  over 200 people freeze in place on cue in Grand Central Station in New York.  what’s great about this isn’t just that it’s a simple, elegant example of how drama can be created in public spaces; but rather the response it got from the bystanders in and around the station…  not only were they intrigued throughout the stunt but gave spontaneous applause at the end.

they didn’t know why they were clapping and cheering, they just knew they’d witnessed something different, amusing and out of the (all too) ordinary.  it would be great to see this kind of sponteneity incorporated into comms planning – in previous posts I’ve talked about how we should be encouraging consumers to join the dots for themsleves, by creating what JJ Abrams calls Mystery Boxes…

I can’t imagine a better mystery box than the one in the above video…  why did they freeze?  what’s going on?  what happens next?  will they do it again?  the answer in the above case was that it was for art and art alone, but if it could be harnessed as a means of engaging consumers with a brand idea, it could become very powerful indeed…

I think things like this are all too often dismissed as stunts.  and yes a stunt it undoubtedly is, but when incorporated into a multi-media (transmedia) campaign, it could potentially be a great deal more.  what’s lacking are not better stunts, but the imagination to build such events into campaigns in intriguing and relevant ways.

broadcasting, content creating, internet, user-generating, viewing

One In / One Out in Broadcasting UGC

Bbc_threeit’s farewell to the blobs as the Beeb unveils a new look for BBC Three.  the world has changed a fair bit in the five years since it was rebranded from BBC Choice, and the relaunch – at the heart of which is a philosophy that content will be available anytime, anyplace, anywhere – reflects this new world of 360 degree commissioning as well as UGC vs corporate-generated content.

one of the most intriguing elements is the BBC’s ambition to establish content partnerships in "the places
where our audiences spend time" with the aim of making the channels online presence
"the hub of a vibrant network of conversations across the web" (quoting Smon Nelson as reported by Digital Spy via Broadcast magazine, click here for more).  what these places are remains to be seen but Mediation suspects that the likes of Facebook and YouTube may be getting a call soon.

UGC remains for many in TV a topic of the day, and as such the channel will also be calling on viewers to send in clips of themselves introducing
programmes and talking about the channel.  get to those webcams!

the announcement comes hot on the heels of the news that MTV is to drop it’s user-generated content channel MTV Flux.  no reason seems to have been given but no doubt ratings played a part.  there’s an interesting perspective for comms planning and advertising here – namely the importance of channel context…

there are strong embedded expectations of what content you’ll be consuming (and how you’ll be consuming it) when you’re engaged with a particular channel…  despite convergence (of content not necessarily hardware remember), watching TV remains fundamentally different from interacting online.  not matching these expectations may have been the death knell for Flux as a stand-alone TV channel…  the fact that the Flux and it’s community of contributors will live on – integrated into the other channels in the MTV portfolio as well as online – signals that UGC and CGC can sit alongside, but it’s a marriage that has to be carefully managed, a lesson that BBC Three may soon come to learn.