advertising, innovating, planning, social media-ising, user-generating

When Dove met Facebook: and the illusion of a schedule that controls what people consume

Dove’s ‘The Ad Makeover’ campaign allows women to replace ads promoing low self esteem with something a little more positive

John Hammond: You’re right, you’re absolutely right. Hiring Nedry was a mistake, that’s obvious. We’re over-dependent on automation, I can see that now. Now, the next time everything’s correctable. Creation is an act of sheer will. Next time it’ll be flawless.

Ellie Sattler: It’s still the flea circus. It’s all an illusion.

John Hammond: When we have control again –

Ellie Sattler: You never had control! That’s the illusion!

From Jurassic park (1993)

a rather interesting debate is being had over a rather innovative campaign from Dove in Australia. playing out across the fine pages of B&T is a discussion about the relative merits of a campaign that allows women to replace ads that encourage low self-esteem (shut up, we’ve all seen them) with one of eight encouraging messages, which you can share across and beyond your personal networks.

the bit that’s causing the debate is that you can select facebook keywords that you feel describe other women who you think should see the ad that you have selected. You and Dove making-over Facebook one demoralising ad at a time, but in doing so you replace – presumably – ads that would have otherwise been there.

so, obvs, this is really smart thinking.  on message for the campaign and for the brand – with innovative and relevant use of the Facebook advertising platform that empowers people to engage with a brand thru media on their terms. fans all round then? no so much …

Nick Keenan, department head of implementation planning and investment at MediaCom has commented that “It’s very innovative but I think it serves Facebook and not the advertiser … at the end of the day I’m not sure what kind of surety it gives to other advertisers that are doing things with Facebook.”

this most awesome use of the word ‘surety’ kicks off a real battle between Keenan and chief executive of media agency Fusion Strategy, Steve Allen

Allen: “that’s “phooey … this is the new today … the new era for advertising and the internet is the first line of that.”

Keenan counters that “that’s completely naïve … how do you plan a schedule for that?”

back to Allen: “it’s like serving up Porsche ads to people in wheelchairs, it does more damage than good”

even‘s Freedman chips in: “The idea of empowering women to create their own advertising landscape is a disruptive one and that always translates to the kind of cut-through required when talking to women in a very crowded market.”

as entertaining as all of this is (and it is), it reminds me of one of the key reasons that I started and continue to write this blog. we live and work between two worlds; our media past and our media future. the debate being played out is between stalwarts of those two worlds, as the language used suggests.

Keenan is arguing that people’s actions will disrupt bought media impacts. like leaving the room in an ad break to make a cup of tea, or turning attention down to the tablet when the ads come on?

Allen argues that people know what brands they know and only want communications from those brands (“you are better off allowing consumers to select what they want, rather than to try and force them into things. Your impact is going to be much more valuable if they are people that want to know about your kind of product or brand. They are going to be receptive to it”) … which one could argue, and I would, leads to a rather myopic experience of brands and media.

for my twopenneth, its a debate about control, and the illusion that we ever had it.

media schedules are amazing things. I really mean that. to an experienced practitioner a brilliant schedule can sing. it can tell stories and decribe audiences and ideas and phases and roles of media. it can articulate behaviours and pinpoint the most intricate nuances of what a planner is seeking to achieve.

but a schedule can never control what people consume. that, to paraphrase Ellie Sattler, is the illusion. a schedule may be the sheet music but it needs people to play it. this is the illusion that we have, or indeed ever had, control.

that illusion is the great trap of applying 20th Century media planning in a 21st Century media landscape. Facebook isn’t like TV, and within a few years TV won’t be like TV either. the rules may not have changed as radically as Allen suggests, but they have changed.

we’re all of us fighting a war for attention, kudos to Dove for developing such a smart weapon for getting it.

all quotes from ‘Ad industry in flap over new Dove app article’ on B&T

disclamer: I don’t work for Unilever or Dove but I did pitch for their business last year and enjoyed the process very much


fragmenting, opinionating, planning, reaching

The Myth of Fragmentation: and the danger of failing to recognise that people haven’t just moved, but that they’ve moved on

a Scout Trooper with a fragmentation grenade: has no bearing on the post other than the fragmentation reference but any excuse … source

there’s a very good opinion piece in this week’s Adnews by MediaCom’s head of implementation, planning and investment Nick Keenan. if you’re a subscriber you can track it down here.

Keenan makes the smart observation that ‘fragmemtation’ is an overused and too simplistically deployed term: “It felt that unless you had worked out how to speak the new hybrid tongue of ‘Tradigital’ (my invented language of combined consumers) being spoken across new ‘BIG’ consolidated/integrated networks you as an advertiser were now hopelessly lost and would never see a mass audience again. We were told and believed we now must grapple with using multiple platforms within traditional media to reach the large numbers we once accessed in single channel environments”

source: Nick Keenan writing in Adnews 3.4.12

Keenan goes further, arguing quite correctly that not only do mass audiences exist, but they have more mass than ever before: “Facebook has over 80% of all people 25-54 … Google has 96% of all Australians online … Put simply these examples along with others such as Amazon, YouTube, and eBay have enormous mass audiences, the likes of which we have never seen.”

source: Nick Keenan writing in Adnews 3.4.12

whilst its very true to say that mass audiences still very much exist, and indeed exist with more mass than they have ever had (media consumption is increasing overall), there is a very real and present danger that we fail to recognise that people haven’t just moved (from Nine to Facebook or Ten to YouTube), but that they have very much moved on too …

they are no longer the ‘passive massive’ (as Faris would put it) that they were when mass audiences existed in the broadcast stream, a mass audience on Facebook or YouTube may be as big or bigger than a Nine or Seven audience, but they (1) behave very differently and (2) have very different expectations of brands …

a mass audience on Facebook or YouTube is in control of what they watch, listen, or interact with. it was Clay Shirky (I think) who observed that whilst in the long tail of content the average quality of what gets made goes down, the average quality of what gets consumed goes up. just landing our content in the new mass platforms is no guarantee that they’ll be viewed let alone interacted with or passed on.

our expectations of what we want in exchange for our attention have changed. the old mass contract stated that if you give us 30 seconds of your attention we will entertain / educate / inform you. the new mass contract is essentially the same, albeit with an extended list of services (utility for example), only now we have a lot more to choose from and less attention to give.

so I’d counter that fragmentation is one of the most profound shifts in our industry right now – but its not fragmentation to platforms (big audiences, as Keenan rightly points out, are getting bigger rather than nicher); rather its a fragmentation towards individual moments and decisions … to watch or not, or pass on or not. that’s crazy fragmentation that introduces more than a little chaos into our mass delivery systems.

yes the mass audience has moved, but more importantly … they’ve moved on.

creating, innovating, internet

Australia’s digital-fuelled cultural boom: Why established brands and businesses need to close the innovation gap

the above video sets the context for a report released last week by Google and the Boston Consultancy Group, which has some rather interesting findings.  the report’s key findings are that Australia’s media industry is healthy, however it is the Internet that is providing the “shot in the arm” to growth.

it turns out that not only do Australians like their ‘new’ media world, but in said world where our access to, and choice of, media has never been greater, we’re consuming more media than ever before.  so much so in fact that – because we export, essentially, more content than we import – we have a trade surplus in our content that’s worth $24bn to the economy.

the report also identified that whilst ad revenues are still (and will be for a while) predominantly generated offline (93% in 2011), its online revenues that are driving more than 50% growth in the sector.

the report came in the same week that the sparkily titled Commercial Economic Advisory Service of Australia (CEASA to their friends) released it’s retrospective of 2011, reporting that whilst adspend was down, it “wasn’t as bad as previous years” (let it not be said that CEASA can’t find a silver lining in a set of figures).

a 1.4% overall drop was the result of (in descending order) online up 17.5%, outdoor up 3.4%, radio up 0.7% (congrats to them all), 2.6% drop in total TV, 9.2% drop in newspapers, 8.4% decline in mags, and a 20.8% drop in cinema. so both reports point to online as doing not just well, but supporting both ad revenues and the overall economy.

so far so ‘tell me something I didn’t know’ … but the reports struck a chord with a conversation I’ve been having a lot with clients and agency-type people recently.  because the reports only tell a truer picture when you ask WHY it is that online is bucking such a downward trend – and I think that the answer is about innovation.

the engine behind online’s performance is now only marginally about penetration gains and faster infrastructure, and a lot more about the increased utility and capabilities delivered via the internet. its not the internet that’s bucking ad spend trends and fuelling the Australian economy, its what the internet is doing, and more specifically what we can do with the internet that counts.

Facebook and YouTube have now been joined by the likes of Flipboard and Spotify on the Australian media scene, innovations that have come not from the mainstream but from the fringe. and here’s where I see the gap. because its not mainstream media or businesses that are driving this innovation, but new entrants. new entrants spotting an opportunity and innovating into it.

when you think about it, many ‘online’ platforms should have been invented by existing players, yet most weren’t:

the music industry should have invented iTunes

the movie business should have invented NetFlix

the radio industry should have invented Spotify

a magazine publisher should have invented Flipboard

a bank should have invented KickStarter

a dating service should have invented Grindr

and for that matter, a media agency should have invented Facebook

the reason none of those organisations invented the new platform is the same reason the American Railroads went into decline:

“The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented…”

source: Marketing Myopia, Theodore Levitt, HBR 1960

Levitt’s question from 1960 is even more pertinent now than it was then. what business are you in? once you’ve answered that you can start innovating around that business, and once you’re inventing stuff that gets shared and talked about, you can stop paying the expensive price of not innovating: buying media.

established players, it strikes me, are the least likely to bridge the innovation gap in their category – we should all we working on plans to change that.

and for those of us in agency land the question is more pertinent than for most … what business are we in? anyone who answers ‘buying media’ or ‘making ads’ should turn the lights off on their way out.