Communications, marketing and media don’t operate in a vacuum. They are part of the culture of our times.
It’s why we look back on old advertising with a sense of “days gone by” – after all good advertising and communications convey a story and context that goes far beyond the simple message.
So it is not surprising that in this time of COVID-19 crisis, that we are seeing new types, forms and approaches to communication. These new approaches are not necessarily one thing or the other – they are not WHOLLY advertising, nor wholly marketing or even “public communications” that we would recognise. They are hybrids.
One of the more interesting experiments that is evolving is futurist, Mark Pesce’s NEXT ONE HUNDRED SECONDS.
Each day, around 9am Australian Eastern Time, Mark releases a 100 second video clip looking into the near future and challenging his audience to think, act and share.
Themed to connect with Pesce’s award winning Next Billion Seconds podcast, this short, daily video release feels like a hack of platforms and styles. It’s a self-made Frankenstein’s monster combining the immediacy of Twitter, the reach of social media, the urgency of social media video, thematics of TikTok and the seriousness and authority of science podcasting.
No doubt, we’ll see more of this emerge in the coming months. More media. More platforms. And hopefully, more hope.
There are some things I like about Apple products. When they “just work” they are great – but over the last few years, the limits of a closed ecosystem have been exposed. These days we are looking further afield for our design-conscious devices, content and computing. Even the once transformative iTunes is closing down.
But when Apple recently launched its new Mac Pro, comparisons were drawn not with high-end design of fashionable devices, but with low tech, everyday living implements.
Marketers, always keen to step into a pop-culture moment saw this as an opportunity. This ad for IKEA Bulgaria is certainly understated, but no doubt, it will grate on the nerves of the Apple designers.
There has been a long period of analysis and graft around media and communication, with particular focus on the role of news, the emergence of “fake news”, orchestrated misinformation and global political upheaval. I am hoping that we will see more of the sense of play on display here. It encourages us to see beyond the shallowness of words and the divisive nature of “positions” towards the humanity and humour that connects us all.
Each of the social media platforms continually evolve their platforms, approaches and algorithms. Sometimes these changes are noticeable and require us to reset our expectations and use. Other times, the changes appear invisible – yet impact our ways of working. For marketers this can prove frustrating – and occasionally exciting, with new benefits emerging.
Digital Information World have produced an infographic that captures a history of Twitter’s algorithm but also provides some helpful tips to improve your Twitter activity. Much of this is simple, but worth reinforcing:
Treat Twitter as an engagement and conversation channel
Respond to messages and updates
Set an agenda using hashtags
Update your stream regularly.
Perhaps most importantly, remember to use Twitter Analytics to understand what is working and not working within your network.
When it comes to city life, there are many dimensions to “liveability”. We can look at infrastructure and its impacts – like how long it takes for citizens to commute from home to their workplace. We can look at life expectancy. Or use of communal space.
We can think about the future and how we’d like to provide alternatives to those long commute times by creating coworking spaces and using technology to empower employees. We can also think about the cultural landscape and what it takes to make a city a great place to live – and by “live” I don’t mean just “work”. Where are the artists? The musicians? What about spaces and opportunities for play and leisure?
There is so much that goes into “liveability” and our lives are so connected these days, that we sometimes automatically jump to “tech” as a solution to everything. But is tech a solution to life – or is it the opposite?
Recently, Vibewire and the Liverpool City Council hosted a hackathon tackling the question of “liveability” as part of the Spark Festival. Over one weekend, students, business leaders, citizens and artists investigated what it might mean to make a city – like Liverpool – “liveable”. Here is what they discovered.
We all know that YouTube has become an internet powerhouse. It’s the one place that we spend more time on than Facebook, and it’s the world’s second largest search engine.
There are many more statistics and stories to tell in this interesting infographic from Filmora. But the most interesting thing – for me at least – is that the People & Blogs category has the most number of uploads of any category. With just over 40% of total uploads, it over three times larger than the next largest category (gaming).
And with 1 billion hours of YouTube watched per day, clearly we remain curious about the people we inhabit the Earth with. What is particularly interesting about this, is that there is no end in sight – no plateauing of data. We seem ever more interested in our own humanity and our creative endeavours.
Which makes me wonder about brands and businesses. When humanity and creativity are top of the agenda, how do you join the conversation?
Topics of conversation have become depressingly heavy across most social media channels. What with Brexit, Trumpmania, Climate Change and a general sense of dystopia pervading Twitter and Facebook, not even the #inspiration hashtag of Instagram can compete.
Years ago, when I worked on digital and promotional strategy for McDonald’s, we’d constantly return to the simple premise – what would it take to “surprise and delight” our customers? We would put this at the heart of each and every promotion.
From the surprise and delight, we’d then move onto “play”. We’d ask more simple questions:
How do we create or generate a sense of playfulness?
P — for power L — for learning and curiosity A — for adventure Y — the yelp of surprise and delight.
Notice, we still have surprise and delight – but to make this work, you need more. You need to understand that great brands have and can wield power – to influence, engage and stimulate. But our customers have this agency too. We need to build adventure into our brand narratives and promote a sense of curiosity.
And all this comes down to great copy. Fabulous storytelling can change lives.
Technology shifts and changes so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. Almost every day there are updates to your computers, “patches” to fix software, improvements to the apps on your phone and more. If you are like me, you’ll have automatic updates on so that these changes take place in the background – often overnight – so that when you turn on your device for the day – voila! – new improvements at your fingertips.
But not all updates are created equally – or with your best interests in mind.
A recent Snapchat upgrade added a new feature – Snap Maps. It’s a way to “view Snaps of sporting events, celebrations, breaking news and more from all across the world”. Sounds great, right?
But it’s also a way for you and your friends (or the general Snap user) to share your location with each other. So now, if you are wondering where your friends are and what they are doing, you can seek them out.
It’s super easy to use, just open the Camera screen and “pinch out” like you are zooming out from a photo and Snap Maps will be activated.
From the map you can see snaps from interesting locations and events as well as photos of people that you know or are connected to.
But isn’t that stalking?
It’s rather cool that you can see where your friends are. In fact, Google has variations on this functionality in its maps – and even had the standalone product, Latitude, until it was closed down in 2013. At the time, I had concerns with Latitude and with the data that we uncaringly share with the people who make our phones and create the apps we run on them – and so too do I have concerns with Snap Maps.
Don’t get me wrong, as a marketer, location information can be super useful. And as a person with friends all around the world, I get a particular kick out of knowing where my friends and connections are and what they are doing.
For example, I know my friend Suzanne is travelling in the US at the moment. Thanks to Snap Map I now know that she was just on Mariposa Street in San Francisco. No doubt checking out the local fried chicken shops.
That’s kind of fun. But as a consumer it makes me nervous.
We know that on social media, the concept of “friendship” is fairly loose. There will be a lot of randomness in your friend list – plenty of people who you don’t know, have never met, and probably wouldn’t invite to your home to stay for the weekend. Yet, you can trust them with your location, each and every second of the day.
A warning for parents
As adults, we can make choices about who shares our personal information, location and so on. But parents with children who use Snap Chat may not realise what has become available with the new Snap Map functionality. In fact, most parents won’t know that some children have open privacy settings meaning that anyone can “friend” and connect/share information with them without asking.
Imagine, for example, your child has a group of friends who use Snap Chat to share photos, chat and keep connected outside of school. Then imagine that there’s an incident – like some bullying or bad behaviour – a falling out of some kind.
Thanks to Snap Maps, all your child’s connections (including the bully) will know where your child is whenever they are logged in.
No doubt, parents have asked their children about their connections and “friends”, and have received assurances that “no, I don’t add people I don’t know” … but words and actions are sometimes strangers. In this video, Joey Salads conducts a Snap Map stalking experiment with the parent of a young girl. The results are compelling.
Turn on Ghost Mode to protect your Snap Chat privacy
The only way to stop your location being shared across your Snap Chat network is to enable “Ghost Mode”. You will be prompted for location sharing the first time you upgrade to Snap Maps, but you can also edit your privacy settings later.
If you have children, I’d recommend you enable Ghost Mode immediately. In fact, unless you’re confident that you know your connections well, I’d enable ghost mode on every device. Being location aware can be useful, but data sometimes reveals more than we expect – and there’s no reason for us to turn a blind eye to it.
So much advertising is bland, characterless, unimaginative. It makes me wonder how agencies are briefed and sometimes why. But it’s easy to live in a bubble and only see what you are directed to see. Some days you need to burst that bubble.
I am always interested to see how different lenses on the same subject reveal insights. For example, B2B marketers have a particular skew when it comes to digital and social media – it is hard edged, data driven and technology enabled. This is particularly true for large scale tech companies – but is an approach that has been resonating across industries for some time. B2C marketing, on the other hand, operates in a high velocity world that can turn on a tweet – responsiveness is no longer just a customer service issue but one that impacts the entire value chain.
We are, after all, ever closer to our customers than ever before.
Social and digital media, however, often feels like it operates in a bubble. An ever-increasing bubble it seems, but a bubble nonetheless. When I watch Gruen, for example, I struggle to recall even the most popular or widely discussed TV commercials shown – my habits have now been so deeply skewed by on-demand viewing and timeshifting that TV by timetable seems so last century.
But this is merely the bubble that we choose. The lens that we select.
And there are movements and trends that continue in their own parallel universe that operate at different speeds.
The GroupM Interaction 2017 report is interesting particularly because it applies a media lens across everything from ecommerce to fake news, television to bandwidth. I particularly like the section on privacy and the impacts that widespread security breaches are having on consumers’ sense of trust.
The report identifies four creative challenges facing both brands and agencies:
Getting the attention of the consumer in a low attention world. As the buyer pushes the seller towards viewability, the consumer is pushing the brand to greater ‘watchability.’
Meeting the costs and measurement implications of the constant iterations of formats and functionality.
Finding the balance of enough variation to meet the needs of ever finer segments without undermining the overall brand proposition. (The Marriott Hotel Bogota has 57 images on Expedia.com. Marriott / Starwood operates over 7000 properties. That’s a lot of images.)
The creation of new classes of content for e commerce environments.
While I can agree on the surface with these challenges, I wonder really whether our attention spans truly are shrinking – do we really have the attention span of a goldfish? And if this is not true, what does this mean for the remaining three challenges?
I have a sense that we are consuming ever-larger volumes of media each and every day – but it’s not necessarily in the format and channel that lends itself to the kind of tracking and measurement that business clients have come to expect.
A recent article from BBC Health questions the notion of the shrinking attention span by unearthing the starting point for this theory – a Microsoft report referencing the Statistic Brain website. Apparently there is no evidence pointing towards a shrinking attention span, nor support for the widely held view that goldfish have attention spans. In fact, Dr Gemma Briggs from Open University suggests that attention is entirely contextual – ”How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation”.
And that brings us back to the question of lenses and touches on the topic of Fake News – a subject also covered in the GroupM report. One of the suggestions in the report points towards the emergence of a “purpose driven media” and an incentive structure created to drive this:
The most shared and most monetized stories come from authentic news sources. A way of decreasing the incentives to the bad guys is to increase the incentives to the good guys. A simple adjustment in the revenue sharing model would go a long way.
And that’s where the future of media becomes extremely interesting. Given the emergence of organisations like Sleeping Giants, a purpose driven media may be a necessary development to help restore trust, authenticity and – dare I say it – respect in the media and advertising industry.
For the last (almost 10 years), a group of marketing and social media enthusiasts have been meeting for coffee. We arrive around 8am each Friday at Sydney’s Single O cafe in Surry Hills for coffee and conversation. Some of us work in social or digital media as a profession. Some of us are involved as part of an interest. And a few are only in it for the coffee.
Over the years, we have seen regulars become friends. There have been weddings and children. There have been breakups and tragedies, visitors and ring-ins. And it has been the most brilliant way to spend a Friday morning ever conceived.
Last week, John Kerrison could not make it to Surry Hills but he beamed in via Facebook Live. Here’s what he had to say (and why he’ll be back more regularly).