We want to add 2-3 people to expand the panel beyond Sydney & WIlliam, to get better geographic and demographic diversity. So if you know someone under 18 who would be a good addition to the panel, please let me know. They don't need to be tech geeks, we're looking to really understand how teens of all kinds are using tech.
Any new participants will need to be prepared to put in the prep time if we get picked and help us expand the survey to their friends. And, of course, they will need to join us in Austin next March for the session! If you know anyone, please email me with why they would make a great addition to our team!
We would also love your input for additional topics to cover during the session. If you'd like to see what we covered in 2015, you can click here to download the full presentation or go to here to see a quick overview of what they talked about. What topics would be important to cover? What are the trends you'd like them to discuss? Please feel free to leave a comment here or again, email me with any ideas.
We got a really great response to our session this year and want to make our 2016 even better. We appreciate your help and thoughts and hopefully we'll see you in Austin again next year!
The audience is getting smarter and tougher. We keep talking about transparency and the audience being in control. Well, if we keep telling them they're in control, they're eventually going to expect to be in control. Then what are we going to do?
Caution: Reading this piece is likely to result in raised blood pressure, seeing red and perhaps a core questioning of what the hell you do every day!
OK, so I've read another series of articles in the various trades about the growth in in-"Something" advertising. Ads on cell phones, ads in airplanes (one airline is even making a pitch during the pre-flight announcements!) and even more eBay "body advertising" auctions. And all of the articles come with yet another series of quotes by execs saying something to the effect of "Isn't it great that the audience can't leave and they have to watch your ad?" (UPDATE: As we start to see mobile and location-based advertising take off, I believe we'll see the ad industry try to deliver more ads that can't be turned off.)
Is this what the advertising industry has become? Is this how we want to harness the incredible, creative power of our industry? In trying to figure out places that the audience is trapped so they can't get away from our messages? Are we really aspiring to create the world of Clockwork Orange, where we hold your eyelids open and force you to watch our messages?
Well, if so, let's really tap into our creative abilities. How about ambulances and hospital emergency rooms? "Welcome to your emergency, triple by-pass. Brought to you today by LowChol. Don't want to be back here again in six months, ask your doctor for LowChol, the prescription rotor rooter for your arteries. Our one-a-day pill will save you a visit here in the future!"
Or maybe funeral homes? There's another place that people are generally captive. "This eulogy is sponsored by HappyPill. If you're depressed over the loss of your loved one, let a HappyPill make it all seem better." And let's not forget the casket. I mean, we don't really know what happens in the afterlife and I have lots of friends who think that shopping may be involved. Do you really want to miss the opportunity to have your message be the last thing someone sees before heading off into eternity?
If you're reading this publication, there's a good chance that you're in the advertising business. So, riddle me this Batman -- when was the last time a friend, colleague or family member came up to you and said "You know, if you could just figure out more places to put ads that I can't escape, that would be really cool!"
And yet, while the industry is happily writing articles about how we can capture the audience, there are numerous articles from people outside the industry complaining about being captured. A recent article by Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, discussed the proliferation of branded content and even quoted from Brandedtv.com to ask "Why create a commercial when you can own the show?" And it's not just TV where branded content is a hot topic. Print media are feeling the challenges, both from companies looking to create "branded editorial" to companies asking for control over how they are covered in magazines where their advertising appears. And while it's not the first time it's happened, Sweet Charity got trade press when they changed a line to include a sponsor mention. He ends his piece with this, "What's astonishing that the same audience that has proven acutely sensitive to any whisper of political bias is tone deaf to the glare of grossly manipulative communication that our media are eagerly mutating to serve."
Advergaming is booming today and I have rarely seen a single mention about the audience in the discussion about what a great opportunity this is. In fact, rarely do you see a discussion about the impact on the audience of the many, pervasive techniques we're using today. Well, other then isn't it great that they can't get away.
It's what happens when tactics over take narrative and strategy. Look at the press the Paris Hilton commercials have scored for Carl's Jr. But a recent article in Ad Age indicated virtually no lift in sales. And Carl's is now going to create more teen male oriented content on their site, to make it a destination for that audience, based on the number of people who wanted to download that single commercial. That's an idea being driven solely by tactical thinking, not strategic thinking.
You can be sure that after the success of programs like BMW Films and Subservient Chicken that many companies called their agency and said "Give me one of those subservient chicken things!" There was no thought as to how it fit into their brand or story, but if it worked for them, it has to work for us!
And just look at the entire WOM phenomenon. Now, as part of full disclosure, we participated in the first WOMMA conference and am very good friends of the WOMMA team. But think about it, if you identify campaign A as your WOM campaign, aren't you saying that your other campaigns aren't worth talking about? Shouldn't the goal of great storytelling be that people talk about everything you do??? Shouldn't you be creating TV commercials, or events or online activities that all make people want to talk about them?
Here's what I say about great stories:
Examples like the Paris Hilton ads or the Pontiac giveaway on Oprah show what happens when tactics rule story. Yes, people will talk about it, but it doesn't translate into action.
But when the American Girl Doll Place opened in NYC, it was the toughest restaurant in the city to get reservations for on a Saturday night. That's the power of great story telling! No ads, no capturing the audience so the can't get away, well, unless you have an eight year-old daughter, then you're trapped! No, they've created a compelling, authentic and relevant story that they deliver to their target audience.
I'm an old theatre person, so I do tend to approach things from the theatrical point of view. We usually start with two things - the audience and the show. We don't say, "Hey, we have sets that look Roman, so let's do Julius Ceaser." (Although, I guess it does sometimes happen in smaller theatres!) No, we start with the audience and the show and then build backwards. My wife calls it backward design
This is not rocket science. There's always been an excellent ROI on telling a great story. Just look at the products and services you use every day.
And you can also very accurately look at what will happen if we don't make a change. People in captivity always revolt -- you can take that to the bank. If we don't start looking for ways to captivate rather then capture, then we need to start fortifying the barricades. For the revolt will come. And sadly, many people in this biz will be yelling, "Let them watch commercials" as they're led to the guillotine.
It made me think about the ad industry and our need to walk in circles to mat the ground down just because that's they way it's always been done. That's why we continue to spend so much time looking at reach & frequency and tactics that work because the audience is captive. Hopefully one day we'll stop all of the old habits that exist just because they are habits and start doing things that create truly engaging experiences!
The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." -- Samuel Johnson
And let's talk about premium channels. Sure, I really like the original shows that many of the premium channels carry, but tonight's (it's a Monday night) line up of movies is so weak, it should be embarrassing to their programming staff. With all of the movies that have been made, how is it that there's a Harry Potter movie from 2005; Platoon from 1986; 42 from 2013; Enemy of the State from 1998 (I do like this movie and it's actually still relevant); King Kong, Spartan, Men in Black. You get the picture.
And on-demand is just as frustrating. I admit that I'm in a minority on this, but commercials don't really bother me. However, networks haven't caught up to how we actually watch on demand. We binge watch, watching several episodes back-to-back, so we can create our own TV viewing timeline. So, I binge watched Brooklyn 99 and watching four episodes in a row, I saw the same three commercials at every commercial break for two hours. Two of them were in-house promo ads to get me to watch another show and the third was the ever popular Viagra commercial. So, I got the same three commercials for two hours and I couldn't even fast forward. Do TV execs actually know how people watch TV these days?
Think back to the start of the TV industry and imagine if you needed a different kind of TV set to watch each network. You could only watch certain shows on specific TV sets. How far would that industry have gone?
Now, my bill for all of my Comcast services is about $200/month, so it's not a cheap service any more. And I actually don't mind paying for it, really. But if you're going to charge me to watch content, then I should be able to watch it however I want to.
During our SXSW presentation, William made an excellent point about content and Gen Z:
then they won't be paying!
Notice, he didn't say they wouldn't pay for content. Just that when they paid for it, it had to be a better experience than what they can put together themselves. I get the whole business of TV and I do understand where many of their challenges come from. But it has to get easier than it is today if it's going to thrive as an industry. Content needs to be completely portable based on the consumers desires, not the industries. Look around TV folks, there's lots of industries you can review to see what happens when you don't give the consumers what they want.
The good news is that our small survey that we did for SXSW clearly showed that Gen Z likes content and that their desire to both snack and have full meals of content isn't on the decline. But their patience with how we deliver that content is on the decline and the industry really should be listening.
I actually like the idea as it means revenue for the content creators no matter which way you go. I'm a firm believer in the fact that all things have a cost and that we need better ways to explore paying for content. Way back in the day, we did think that micro-payments like this test would be the way it worked and over time, advertising became the number one way to pay for content.
Today, there's a lot of debate about the value of online content and how we should pay for things. And, of course, many people don't think they should pay for anything online at all. Just this week, there was a breach of Sony's servers and many of their upcoming movies were released online and there are a lot of people who think that's OK. But digital content has costs as well and if we expect everything for free, I think you could start to see a decline in content quality. If you ask me, we've already seen that happen.
So kudos to Google for experimenting. I'll be curious to see how it turns out and hope that they do some case studies out of it.
From the article in CNET:
Sick and tired of all those ads? Google is testing a program called Contributor that lets you subscribe to the Web.
Well, not to the whole Web -- just to 10 Web publishers that are participating in the Contributor experiment. Under it, people pay $1 to $3 per month and see a thank-you note on websites instead of an advertisement.
"When you visit a participating website, part of your contribution goes to the creators of that site," the Google Contributor site said. "The more you contribute, the more you support the websites you visit."
The thank-you note appears in place of an ad that Google otherwise would have supplied, spokeswoman Andrea Faville said. The 10 publishers participating in the experiment include photo-sharing site Imgur, news satire site The Onion, tech news site Mashable and slang-explanation site Urban Dictionary.
Google Contributor is an interesting idea for a company that's funded by ad revenue, but so far, it is only an experiment. Google offered a waiting-list form to let people sign up.
William and Sydney are classmates at MKA and they're both pretty excited to be attending their first SXSW program. And we're pretty proud of them to get picked, not that many 8th graders have the chance to speak at SXSW!
They will be creating a website for their session and looking for questions and input from folks as they build their content. I'll post again when it goes live. But if you have any questions to start them going, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
And, if you're going to be at SXSW next year, please come hear them speak!
It's all exciting for me to see, as I started this phase of my life doing virtual reality back in the early 90's. I was introduced to VR by a good friend, Dave Peters, who ran a company called Absolute Amusements. Together, we worked with the Virtuality system out of the UK and a company here called Horizon Entertainment. I eventually formed my own company, the CyberEvent Group, and we produced many of the early VR events through the 90's.
Back in the 90's, I called the use of VR for advertising and marketing Experiential Advertising, the ability to let consumers step into and interact with the marketing message. As I wrote back then:
For the first time, consumers will be able to enter and, more importantly, interact with a corporate marketing message. From traveling through the human body to playing a virtual football game, consumers will be able to experience almost any marketing world. Virtual reality offers advertisers the ultimate sampling opportunity and will present a clutter free event that will draw attention to any product. Experiential advertising is an excellent opportunity to influence today's sophisticated consumer.
And what was on the bleeding edge in 1991 can be just as difficult for people to understand today. Funny, I just came across this quote from an article about VR in 1995. Kinda' amazing how little has changed, isn't it!
Plus, a lot of ad agency people I've spoken to are intimated by the process of creating a VR experience. The trick is understanding the non-linear aspects of VR. And in the advertising world, that's an enormous, cognitive leap.
Randel Walser, then with Autodesk, took a cyber spin on that Confucius quote by saying Print and radio tell; stage and film show, cyberspace embodies. When asked about VR back in the 90's, we wrote:
It's the combination of immersion and interaction that makes virtual reality so exciting for the event industry. Never before has this combination existed in such a dynamic form and with such unlimited potential. As we all know from our own learning experiences, retention is much higher when we're involved in the learning experience and not merely acting as a spectator. The experience-enriched retention is the effect provided by virtual reality. By entering the computer-generated world and controlling their experience in that world, participants will carry that additional retention concerning your product, message or event away with them. It has not been unusual for us to over-hear conversations about a VR experience several days after it occurred.
We were very successful with that approach and when we brought VR to the consumers, we frequently attracted up to a several hour wait for our experiences. The problem back then was that the tech hit a wall and didn't continue to progress. In addition, content was pretty sparse, with many companies just turning VR into "Doom in a head mount."
But while at SIGGRAPH last month, I attended several sessions on VR and one thing that struck me was that they were having the same conversations that we were having 20 years ago. Still lots of discussions on latency and field of view and "cyber sickness," but still not a lot of conversations about the content. I have to say, I did hundreds of public presentations of VR for thousands of people and very rarely saw anyone complain about those things. And, when they did, it was in the context of how cool the experience was, not how they wouldn't do it until those things were fixed.
So I'm excited to see VR making a comeback and look forward to seeing what will be happening with VR in the future. I hope that the industry will focus more on what's important to the consumer - the experience - and not keep focusing solely on the technology. And as a Google Glass wearer, I'm also a huge fan of AR and as the two come together, well, the future will be pretty cool!
I've rousted up some old photos of my earlier work below, it was fun to reminisce about those days. Back in March of '93, I also brought a VR system to Live with Regis & Kathie Lee. I remember it being a lot of work to get set-up on time and then we only had a short segment to get it all done. We had lots of fun and it sure is nice to see myself without grey!
A few years ago, while speaking in Amsterdam, I also gave an interview talking about AR, VR and the future of tech.
Max Lenderman wrote about my earlier work with the CyberEvent Group and the Brand Experience Lab in his book Experience the Message a few years ago.
This is the Virtuality system that started it all for me. I actually owned the 1st two systems that came into the US.
The CyberEvent Group was the tour producer for the Cutty Sark Virtual Voyage and was on the road for 18 months.
CyberEvent Group produced a 26 seat Immersive Animation theater that won a top trade show award in the mid-90's.
The first VR installation on a Disney property, the CyberTron at Pleasure Island.
So we do we do in a world where we have an abundance of information and a scarcity of attention? Create just in time marketing that allows us to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. When I'm shopping for a car, I want all of the car information I can find. Once I've actually bought a car, I don't want any more car information.
I believe that just-in-time marketing creates a huge opportunity, especially for placed-based media (like at retail), that we haven't even begun to explore. This is not just digital networks running content we don't really pay attention to, this is creating ways to give people the information they need to make a purchase decision when they want to and how they want it.
But that takes a lot of work and really, for the most part, I think that too often we don't really think it's worth the effort. We've got to find the balance between the abundance of information and a scarcity of attention. That's why I believe in just-in-time communication. Get people the information when they want and you'll find that people will give you the attention you want.
Today, people talk about real time marketing, but the mainly talk about reacting in real time to what's happening in the world, which seemed to really take off with Oreo's very funny tweet when the power went out during the Super Bowl. That was well done (and I'm a huge eater of Oreos!), but did it help people with their decision about whether or not to eat Oreos?
See I think the more powerful version of real time marketing is actually delivering information when and how people need it. I'd love to see more brands doing that.
With live demonstrations of technologies you won’t see every day—technologies bringing together the physical and digital to harness your sight, smell, touch and taste including Twitter-driven robots, crowd-controlled gaming, and a host of emerging technologies even WE haven't seen yet.
You can go here to see what we presented last year, we had a number of pretty cool things there, including the Twitter gumball machine! So if you're going to be in Austin this weekend, come see us!