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


branding, co-creating, content creating, marketing, planning, publishing, user-generating

Context and Content: Communication lessons from African Drums and Harry Potter

Yoruba ceremonial drums, Nigeria.  picture from here.

so the lovely Emily got for me a signed copy James Gleick's The Information for my birthday (thanks Emily) and whilst I'm only a couple of chapters in, its already proving to be a bit of a treasure trove.  the first chapter discusses the African Drums.  when 18th Century Europeans first heard the drums, they had no idea that they were conveying information.  yet the drumbeats contained detailed and what seemed to be superfluous information.

"Instead of "don't be afraid," they would say, "Bring your heart back down out of your mouth, your heart out of your mouth, get it back down from there" … the drums generated fountains of oratory"

the explanation for the elaboration is fascinating.

"in mapping the spoken language to the drum language, information was lost.  the drum talk was speech with a deficit … the drum language began with the spoken word and shed the consonants and vowels.  that was a lot to lose … consequently … a drummer would invariably add "a little phrase" to each short word.  Songe, the moon, is rendered as songe li tange la manga – "the moon looks down at the earth" … the extra drumbeats, far from being extraneous, provide context"

James Gleick, The Information, Chapter One

there's a beautiful parallel with the world and brands and communication.  the moments in which brands connect with people are fleeting and becoming more so.  there is a very narrow opportunity in which a marketer can convey information.  messages need context, and brands provide it.

so rather than someone hearing "we make cars" (the message) they hear "we make Jeeps" (the branded message).  this context takes the message from a simple "this is what we do" to a more richly imbued communication embodying all the associations someone recalls when they hear "Jeep's cars".

this context is crucial … "we make cars", becomes:

we make Jeeps


we make Toyotas


we make Hondas


it's a useful thinking framework – to separate the context and the content.  marketers work in challenging times.  the potential opportunities to make meaningful connections with people have never been greater; but with opportunity has come complexity.  how are communications cutting-through?  how to create the most distinctiveness in market?  how and when to engage audiences through media beyond which that I buy?

separating context and content helps to address some of those challenges.

creation of context is the creation of brand meaning.  what does my brand stand for?  why does it exist?  what are the associations I want to create (or reinforce) when someone recalls my brand.  this is a long-term process, and it's contribution to a brand's business not always easily measurable.  but it's crucially important context – and the marketer is responsible for continuously creating it.

creation of content is the creation of the message.  we're having a sale this weekend.  new model now available.  we've improved our fuel efficiency.  the role of content is to influence and stimulate an action or a response.  these are shorter term, and the extent to which they permeate and become salient in market are very measurable.  they can also be spread with huge efficiency by media other than that which is bought.

separating these two elements helps navigate increasingly complex waters.  how can I – as marketer – create context for my brand?  a context unhindered by the need for immediate ROI in market.  what platforms (through owned media) can I create to hold and communicate this context?

…and how can I efficiently and effectively deploy my messages into market?  how can I inspire and encourage people to pass-on that message on my and their behalf?

the combination, like the African drums, are simple messages imbued with the richest of context … so that the content is un-mistakenly attributed to its brand.  the add the pieces together you first have to separate them.

which brings us, of course, to Harry Potter – and this week's announcement that the upcoming Deathly Hallows Part 2 won't be the end of the Potter franchise.

Potter as brand is now established.  seven books and eight movies have communicated the narrative and its characters, all of whom are now familiar memes in our culture.  like Star Wars before it, Potter – because of the human stories it tells – is now firmly embedded in the popular psyche.  but context and content have hereto been one and the same; the experience absolutely binding the two together.  books and movies as one-directional communication of story.  around this controlled narrative a user-generated culture arose, but it never penetrated back into nor influenced the context or content coming from JKR, Bloomsbury and Warner Bros.

that's about to change.  Potter is about to undergo a context content split.

Potter as a brand is now evolving to have two distinct streams.  the context will continue to be provided by JKR and co.  both the ideological: what are the rules and conventions of the Harry Potter universe?  and the physical: in the form of the Pottermore owned-media platform (which will also be the sales platform for HP eBooks).

but content will now, for the first time, be created by JKR and anyone else with the passion and energy to contribute.  the long-term building of the Potter brand co-existing but separate to the short-term creation of Potter content.

the evolution is already apparant … the above announcement inviting and teasing its audience to "follow the owl" – an ARG element signalling a shift in the Potter brand to one that is co-created, crowdscourced and owned by everyone.

we're all drummers now.

brand extending, branding, campaigning, co-creating, community-building, connecting, earning, gaming, owning, praising, social media-ising, user-generating

Big Planning and Big Thinking: How Bendigo and Adelaide Bank use owned & earned media to deploy a little utility into the world

Got a big idea that you want to bring to life? Create a plan, share it and make it happen with help from the PlanBig community

so the lovely and awesome Zaac posted a link to my wall of the above effort from Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.  it's called PlanBig and, in it's own words, its…

"… a way for people to get together to make things happen and make a difference.  We [Bendigo and Adelaide Bank] believed that there was some real value in giving people the chance to come together in one place to talk about ideas, share inspiration, offer advice or help make things happen for themselves or someone else.  PlanBig brings together the experiences, knowledge and expertise of people with different skills from all walks of life and all ages to help each other get ideas kick started."

it's a delightful and instinctively attractive platform, which elegantly ticks a range of boxes including – amongst others – socialisation, co-creation, crowdsourcing and gamification.  it also has a elegant and seamless execution that connects with the Book and other social platforms…  the badges-as-reward effort has been borrowed from FourSquare, as has the Book's Like concept (in fact the functionality is a bit like a social network functionality greatest hits, which isn't a bad thing – better to use functionality with which we're familiar … makes it more, well, functional).

as the site observes, "Bendigo and Adelaide Bank feel so strongly about helping people realise their dreams, they’ve been doing it in local communities for over 150 years" … so this platform is just a natural extension of a brand proposition that's been in market for over a century.

it's also another example of the owned and earned media combo (note the absence of bought media) to create (1) utility (2) meaningful connections with a community of people and (3) content ripe for the amplification – if even a few of these ideas get big it will be marketing gold-dust.  all of which makes a great deal more sense to me than buying a shedload of ads telling people what competitive lending rates you have.

this genuinely feels like a brand / product extension with sociable and marketable assets built in from the ground up.  it's a communication for people, by people, and its infinitely better for it.  good on 'em.

debating, internet, realtiming, social media-ising, social networking, user-generating

Elephants and Mountains: notes from MySpace’s Next Chapter of Social Media

MySpace_conf_1 and we're off…  Tim Burrowes chairs MySpace's Next Chapter in Social Media

there was only one word of the day last week, when MySpace Australia hosted their Next Chapter in Social Media event in deepest darkest Alexandria.  that word was Discovery.  MySpace is about discovery, and being discovered.  and about discovering stuff.  "MySpace will be the best tool for Discovery" was the assertion of the social network's International Co-President Mike Jones, who in his keynote speech highlighted projects from the network that are "allowing people to get Discovered".

Mike_Jones_MySPace Jones made the point that 'social' is no longer a USP…  every web property has or will soon have social elements as an integral part of their offering.  being a network that is social isn't enough.  hence 'Discovery', and MySpace's intended positioning as the internet's 'Discovery Engine'.  they're nothing if not bold.

Jones discussed a range of MySpace innovations, from allowing realtime commenting on the site to integration with Twitter; and he talked about the site's new AdStream unit, which allows advertisers to "push ads into the stream", the "consumer-activated pop-up" for which delivers "incredible impact".

we have a problem here.  well actually we have two.

firstly, the innovations aren't.  innovative.  my Twitter has been linked to my Facebook for as long as I can remember (which in realtime isn't I admit that long but long enough given the pace of change in social media network evolution).  nor is commenting on content in real time revolutionary, to pretend that it is may do more damage than good.  ditto MySpace Music's developing an algorithm to recommend music based on what you're listening to.  we've been there and we've done that, nothing new is being brought to the table.

the second problem is of more concern because it gives visibility to the mentality behind the direction in which MySpace is going.  Jones' comments – that "ads" can be "pushed" and deliver "impact" – is a broadcast mentality, a mentality that has no place as a core proposition within an online social network.  while the rest of the comms community discuss engagement, content, utility and ways in which brands can make our lives more intuitive, MySpace find themselves talking about ads that deliver more impact.

there's a disconnect between the MySpace product and the role of brands here…  the primary role of brands is not IMHO to fund MySpace.  that comes as an important and necessary result of brands engaging with and providing utility for MySpace users.  for MySpace themselves not to be leading this intellectual charge should, in the month that saw AOL give up on Bebo, be of concern.

there's a genuine sense that MySpace are playing catch-up.  even the acknowledgment by Jones that "sometimes what you Discover on MySpace may not be on MySpace, and we're OK with that" sounds more like the waving of a white flag rather than a confident forging of partnerships to grow, activate and engage the MySpace user-base.

the danger is that 'Discovery' becomes nothing more than an interesting but unownable concept for which product simply doesn't follow through.  Jones may assert that "Discovery is the one thing we really have to nail", but the one question that everyone at MySpace should be asking themselves…  'how do we bring utility to how people discover stuff on the internet?' doesn't seem to be being asked, at least in last week's public forum.

I Tweeted at the event #myspaceevent wondering what myspace would have done differently if they could replay the last five years over again?

Tim picked it up and put the question to Jones, who was honest and candid.  MySpace couldn't keep pace with its own growth.  resources were diverted to infrastructure and sales, rather than product; "for five years they [MySpace] were so busy keeping the site up that they had no visibility on what users were doing".  Jones has his work cut out.

MySpace_conf_2 wise words from  Dan Pankraz of DDB

next up at the event was Dan Pankraz, a Youth Planning Specialist at DDB who gave an overview on Generation C.  the content was or should be very familiar to those of us who have been negotiating the future of media and communications for a while, but some solid observations were made:

  • for the 'connected collective', happiness = being part of the tribe
  • successful ideas aren't necessarily the biggest but the fastest moving
  • we need to create stuff for the swarm to pick up and run with
  • conversations never end
  • mobiles = social oxygen
  • 82% of young people rely on peer approval for decision making
  • brand relevance is determined in the moment
  • online identities are different from our real ones; the online version being the 'wanname'
  • gen-C are pluralistic with sub-cultures, and avoid perceptions of one-dimensionality

one observation that caused some chatter on the day was a stat from FastCompany claiming that in 9 hours of media consumption, gen-C take in 13 hours of content.  personally I thought that sounded conservative – multitasking alone potentially doubles the amount of media a content-hungry gen-C can  devour, with their attention span decreasing accordingly of course.

Pankraz shared a plethora of examples of who's out there doing interesting stuff in this space…  broadly aligned along three pillars; Collaboration, Purposeful Platforms and Play…

on Collaboration: "agencies talk too much about the tools and not enough about how brands can be more social and what content they have to share" … "the best brands allow people to morph ideas" … "do stuff with and for gen-C not at them" … gen-C are not a destination and can't be targeted, rather they are a partner in production.

Kypski's One Frame of Fame Project encourages all of us to be in their music video, which us updated every hour based on contributions from, well, anyone…

attracting 14 million unique visits within 8 weeks, Draft FCB Stockholm's campaign for Sweden's TV licensing body allowed anyone to create a video clip where anybody could be the hero of the clip…

on Purposeful Platforms: Pankraz cited Coke's Expedition 206, for which three ambassadors take a journey to all 206 countries where Coca-Cola is sold, interestingly thats 14 more countries than are represented by the United nations…

on Play: "…a key marketing paradigm to engage audiences", Pankraz described Cabbie-oke, DDB's project for Telstra which see's Cabbie-oke cabs offering free cab rides every weekend; so all you have to do is belt out a tune for your free ride…


he described RedBull as "probably the most playful brand in the world" citing their 'secret halfpipe' project for Shaun White.  they do what great brands – in Pankraz's view – should all do: experiment with and create popular culture…

in short, its not what you say, but what you do that counts.  Dan blogs here.

MySpace_conf_3 SMO joke – Nicole Still gives the advertiser's perspective

the final speaker of the afternoon was the enigmatic J&J's Pacific Digital Director Nicole Still, who gave a candid walk through ten principles she works to at the company:

  1. never, ever, censor… "deleting comments is not an option"
  2. be ready for SMO (Social Media Outbreak); that thing that happens when someone replies or responds to what you've put out there.  she encourages J&J marketers to just try [something new], admitting that "for companies like J&J, Social Media is like the dentist; it means well but it causes great anguish"
  3. every brand has a right to be there [in the social space]
  4. develop a parallel brand to deploy into the social media space – for example Neutrogena is building a OLS (one less stress) brand to deploy into the social space
  5. prioritise and define the role of each social media channel
  6. use a combination of paid, earned and free media (Still cited a recent campaign that split investment 75% paid, 20% earned and 5% owned, and suggested that for an investment of c.$1.3m she'd expect to generate c.$3m of total 'media')
  7. harness alpha-influencers on third-party sites
  8. practice on Facebook (who don't charge to have sites) – remember that "people don't take on individuals, they take on corporations" (ie always respond individually)
  9. measure what matters: the number friends you have doesn't.  50% of the people who visit the J&J site 'fan' it.  she has five key metrics: sales, reach & freq, awareness, cost effectiveness and engagement
  10. sometimes, its about presence not participation.  sometimes, just being there is enough

in the discussion after-wards, Still made some surprising comments about the client / agency relationship.  "from J&J's standpoint, its the responsibility of the [digital] agency [to monitor the social space]" … "at a global [big brand] level, it shouldn't be brought in house" … and finally, "we take responsibility for training the agency".  this last point in particular was interesting, Still admitted taking what is a reasonable and responsible position in ensuring her agencies are delivering what she and her company needs.  ultimately "you have to give people ownership in the space to be incredible successes or colossal failures".  refreshing indeed.

in the final panel discussion I asked about the elephant.  the big grey one.  there.  in the room.  there.  behind you…  "Australian marketing invests relatively less than equivalent digitally-enabled countries in online.  PWC have stated that "traditional media 'owns' the market in Australia for a long time yet to come".  so why is Australia lagging behind and what would the panel like to do to help it catch up?"

for Pankraz it was about better learning: Australian clients have had a bad education from agencyland – we need to better educate the market about digital.

Still challenged the question, citing The Best Job in the World as an example of great thinking coming out of Australia, a country which many companies want to be a testbed for innovation and marketing thinking.

only Rebekah Horne tackled my elephant, commenting that because there are no agreed metrics or online currency in Australia, traditional media is seen as less risky; less risky for agencies to recommend, and less risky for marketers to buy…

it was quite the appropriate comment from the Managing Director and Senior Vice President International of MySpace.  Horne must know better than anyone the mountain MySpace now have to climb, but its perhaps no different from that which all of us negotiating the future of media and communications have to climb.  MySpace may not have the answers to what the Next Chapter of Social Media looks like, but from here it looks like they're the ones who are creating a forum for the asking; and finding the answers is required learning for MySpace and the industry alike.

content creating, CRM-ing, public relating, social media-ising, user-generating

Planning for a start not an end: how Skype’s Phone Box Experiment is encouraging us all to call more landlines by sending their man into the middle of nowhere

so you're Skype and you're brilliant and everyone using you loads for free internet to internet calls.  but the value ready to be unlocked in your business is in paid for calls to mobiles and landlines.  what to do?  …well in an email this morning from Skype they pointed me in the direction of their solution…  in a cool idea, Rob Cavazos has journeyed into the middle of nowhere and is awaiting our calls, whilst always staying within the frame of a camera.

the website seamlessly introduces you to the idea whilst clearly articulating the options and benefits of adding credit to your Skype account so that you make calls to non-internet destinations.

the challenge now is amplification, amplification, amplification.  Skype need to ensure they capitalise on their investment in getting Rob into the middle of nowhere and land the idea in spaces and places beyond their site.  they have a YouTube channel which is a great start, but I can't seem to track down any kind of live feed?  the project now needs to go into overdrive to create WOM and conversations in and around what's going on with their experiment…

getting their man there was one thing, I look forward to seeing if Skype can pull off the other trick of ensuring that the idea has traction and momentum so that their idea is a starting not an end point.

creating, experiencing, outdoor, user-generating

Digital and OOH collide in Dublin: what happened when Playhouse and turned a buliding into a digital playground

Dancers from Playhouse on Vimeo.

so about to head for the weekend and XFactor but just picked this up on the twittersphere and thought it was a rather delightful thing to end the week on.  from the 24th of September until the 11th of October, Dublin's Liberty Hall is being transformed into a giant 50 metre, low resolution, TV screen.  the best bit – anyone can join in…  members of the public are being invited to create animations that will be displayed on the building as part of the project.

brilliant example of digital spaces and places being amplified in the real world.  echoes of the HBO project but with an added open invitation for anyone to showcase their creativity…

here's hoping that they're investing in amplifying it… desktop applications that show what's going on in real time, lots of YouTubeness, and perhaps some kind of digital book that captures and showcases the best examples.

more of this kind of thing please…  and if you want to get creating then click here.

blogging, measuring, planning, social networking, targeting, user-generating

Measuring the Groundswell: how Forrester are identifying and quantifying groups and behaviours in the social media space


so I've started reading Groundswell, a book about how social technologies are transforming business, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li.  some of its early content is a little objectionable, for example "some people were using Twitter in some pretty silly ways … giving hourly updates on what they had for lunch or what meeting they had just entered … that gets pretty insipid after a very short while".

tell that to the kids behind scanwiches – who've created an awesome space which displays cut profiles of globally inspired sandwiches accompanied by simple ingredient captions.  the point is that its not our place to judge.  the world is evolving, and what's a great more important that deciding whats insipid or not is working out how to help brands enter and thrive in a world of social medias.

fortunately then that the authors get beyond this to very usefully classify six groups according to the different activities and applications that people use in the Groundswell; the "social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other; rather that from traditional institutions like corporations".  the classifications are:

  • creators – publish blogs / content, maintain a web page, upload content
  • critics – who react to other content online, postings comments, ratings or reviews or editing wikis
  • collectors – saving URLs and tags or using RSS, collecting and aggregating the internet
  • joiners – participating thru maintaining profiles on social networking sites
  • spectators – who consume what the rest produce
  • inactives – the nonparticipants

all well and good, but  here's the cool bit.  they've created and made public their Social Technographics tool that allows you to profile a group of people based on age, country and sex against these six behaviours.  you can then index them against the general population, allowing you to plan and build social media strategies based on the kinds of behaviour people already demonstrate.  which in Mediation's book is pretty darn cool.

so the profile of 25-34 year only men in the UK looks like this:


with the most predominant behaviours being spectating and joining (66%  and 59% of 25-34 UK men doing those respectively).  but what's interesting is the likelihood of them being collectors, indexing 183 against the all adult population.  the list obsession so loved of the lads mag genre re-invented for the social media space.

does this tell you what your social media strategy should be?  no.  does it help you identify and quantify the predominant behaviours of the people you're trying to target?  yes.  and that's important.  I've sat in two many sessions where the phrase 'we'll get people to create content for us' has been thrown out.  it of course may be the right suggestion, but a little objective rigeur and analysis never hurt anyone.  even if it was about what you had for lunch.

advertising, blogging, broadcasting, co-creating, engaging, planning, remixing, social networking, user-generating

Thinking from a different place – the rewards of letting go: what happened when Vizeum debated who exactly is in control?

TFADP_II but what does it all mean?: Hook, Grant, Bailie, McClary and Corcoran with chair Chris Maples debating at Vizeum this evening

who's in control?  that was the theme of this evening's Thinking From A Different Place debate at Vizeum.  do brands make what customers want or do customers determine what brands make?  do creative agencies still control creation of the best ideas, or are the crowd now creating and aggregating the best content?

a panel, consisting of Vizeum's Matthew Hook, We Are Social's Robin Grant, Martin Bailie of Glue, Michael McClary from Microsoft and Andy Corcoran from MTV all awesomely debated a range of subjects from the decline of the newspaper industry to the impact of technology, taking in the future of media agencies and the nature of brands and advertising on the way.

it's easy to summarise such a debate by saying that its all getting more and more complicated and more and more difficult and we all need to move faster and faster and be better and better to stay ahead; but a few interesting comments steered the debate in a more illuminating direction.

Martin pointed out that we focus too much on the next big technology, or on the specifics of what people are doing with technology now, rather than focusing on two millennia of human psychology to point us in the right direction.  as he put it, if we "get the basics right you're 80% there" – produce interesting stuff that's based on a interesting point and view and land it in the laps of as many of the right people as possible.

the question of listening to customers was numerous times, in particular by McClary who observed that there's a "danger in highlighting [and responding to] only the loudest voices".  Hook agreed, observing that whilst you can engage 1,000s in a conversation, many brands are interested in talking to and influencing millions.  Corcoran reminded us of the Henry Ford quote that "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted they'd have asked for faster horses".

but it was the nature of control that caused the most interesting debate.  Grant: "historically brands were more in position of control"; Hook: "marketers desperately want control, they do everything they can to create predictability [of the result of their actions]"; Bailie: "it doesn't matter – no one controls brands; get rid of the idea of control"

for me its about maintaining a balancing act; about knowing when to keep and when to let go of control of what a brand does and how it does it.  would you ever let the crowd determine your core creative idea or brand positioning? …almost certainly not.  would you let them create content inspired by it? …yes.  should you let them make your products? …no.  should you le them choose the ingredients? …of course.

a point was made about the recent successes of Facebook and Twitter, with a question being raised about what business they're in.  they are – of course – in the business of aggregating audiences.  that's the media business.  the point of whether or not they can monetise that aside (big aside I recognise but run with it), part of their success is down to the fact that they capitalise on the fact that one of the best ways to grow an audience is to get your current audience to do it for you.

giving away control – of your product, or whatever is appropriate – is a particularly effective way of getting an audience to do just that.  give them ownership, give them reasons to talk about you brand, its point of view and its products and services.  but most of all give them a reason to come back, to stay part of the conversation with you.  because its those conversations that are the most valuable bit of media real estate of all.

co-creating, planning, targeting, user-generating

A new lore of averages: what Clay Shirky and the Coney Island Mermaid Parade can teach us about defining target audiences

Means_comparison_mermaid_pics insight after insight from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody.  the above chart is copied from chapter five which covers collaborative production. it shows contributors to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade Flickr site ranked by the number of photos they contributed.  a couple of users contributed the most whilst the most users contributed only a little.  Shirky observes that:

“…the imbalance is the same shape across a huge number of different kinds of behaviours.  a graph of the distribution of tags on Flickr is the same shape as the graph of readers-per-weblog and contributions-per-user to Wikipedia.  the general form of a power law distribution appears in social settings when some set of items – users, pictures, tags – is ranked by frequency of occurrence”

that there’s a massive imbalance between people who contribute in collaborative projects we know.  but its something that we don’t often enough plan for in a media world where we increasingly ask (the audience formerly known as) consumers to user-generate and co-create on our behalf.  Shirky goes on to point out that:

“…the imbalance drives large social systems rather than damaging them.  fewer than two percent of Wikipedia users ever contribute, yet that us enough to create profound value for millions of users … the spontaneous division of labour driving Wikipedia wouldn’t be possible if there were concern for reducing inequality rather than limiting it … large social systems cannot be understood as a simple aggregation of the behaviour of some nonexistent ‘average’ user”

and there you have it.  he said it.  there’s no such thing as the average user.  we all know this, and yet we still struggle to capture the targets for our advertising campaigns in neat tangible soundbites.  the demographics of old have (thankfully) long gone, but whilst they’re been replaced by more contemporary means – attitudinal or usage based targeting – our one-dimensional thinking too often remains…

we are still, by and large, expected to think of and present ‘one’ target audience.  an ‘averaged’ person or group based on some attribute of attributes that are most relevant to the brief.  but look again at where the mean ‘average’ sits in the above chart… it not only fails to capture the few individuals who would be super-involved in what we have to say or ask them to do, but massively over-estimates the extent to which most people will commit attention to our branded projects.

we need a new lore of averages for our targeting-think.

when we describe target audiences we should be thinking of them as sitting along the above spectrum.  how do we plan on one hand for the very few but valuable super-attention givers from whom a lot of the effectiveness of the media investment will derive?  whilst on the other hand plan for the ‘mode’ individuals, the vast majority who will contribute the smallest amount of attention to what we have to say?

this spectrum, this logarithmic curve of attention, exists at whatever level you aggregate.  be it a population, or an age range, or any segment no matter how – whether attitudinally or behaviourally – it is defined.  there is no average user, no average consumer, no average contributor, co-creator, or co-collaborator.  let’s stop kidding ourselves and clients otherwise.

blogging, broadcasting, internet, social networking, user-generating

Learning to advertise without advertising: what Mediation learned when he went along to listen in on The Guardian’s Media Talk Live

Meditalk_live so the latest MediaTalk podcast from the Guardian is up and out, but this week's is a bit special.  one because it was recorded live, but two because Mediation was lucky enough to be in the audience for the recording at Guardian Towers.  the panel – social media expert JD Lasica, reporter Sarah Lacy, blogger Robert Scoble, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones and of course the wonderful Emily Bell – discussed a range of topics focused in and around the changing ecology of media business.

lots of sense talked (mainly by JD "shooting dinosaurs in a barrel" Lasica and Emily "we didn't listen enough to our audiences" Bell), but there was one question posed to wards the end (44 mins and 33 secs in if you're interested) that wasn't answered.  Susan Bratton asked: "there was some conversation about lack of innovation in advertising and sponsorship support, what would you like?".  Sarah Lacy said that it was "like porn – I don't know what it is but I'll know it when I see it"…

JD Lasica observed that interruption marketing would be gone in 10 years, and that you've got find "new models to make advertising that's personalised, customisable to me.  something that's welcome, useful, that I want on my screen".

it's an observation that often goes unsaid.  Mediation has often suggested that the problem with making media business models work in the new ecology isn't advertising.  the problem is adverts.  controlled and crafted packets of what an advertiser wants you to know work fine (brilliant even) in a broadcast model, but they're pretty pants in a conversation space.

in fact you could argue that – to paraphrase Cluetrain – brands are conversations.  in this context the ad format is as dead as a dodo; media business models will kick in again when, and only when, we collectively learn how to monetise advertise without advertising.

you can listen to to the whole podcast here, and read Kevin Anderson's blog post summary of the discussion here.

big thanks to the Guardian having me along.  a joy and a pleasure, if a
bit weird seeing my favourite podcast being recorded.  awesome stuff.