Rudeless, a new company dedicated to improving mobile phone behavior, is about to introduce its first application. Granted it’s still in the early phase of development. In fact today we go into A/B testing with our initial concepts.
One version, De-Rude, rewards and punishes you for good and bad behavior. It works on an opt-in basis. You begin by selecting a mode. For example, in date mode, you agree to avoid taking calls, sending texts or checking in while you’re on a date so that you can pay attention to the other person.
The application itself helps you comply. Let’s say you enter a restaurant, De-Rude prompts you to check in, tweet, post a quick photo to Instagram and get all of that over with. You then enter date mode, get a huge smile from your companion, and you’re ready to focus on her (or him.)
If you make it through the date without using your phone, your non-rude reputation goes up, you can add a badge to your Match.com profile and you will, no doubt, become more desirable to the opposite sex. Break your contract, however, and a few things happen. Your reputation diminishes and, ready for this? Your battery drains. That’s to keep you honest and make you think twice when itchy fingers want to reach for the on button.
Tentatively called wePhone for test purposes, version B asks both people on a date to opt-in. They simply download the app, bump phones and they’re un-connected to their digital worlds and connected to each other. When they re-bump they’re back online. What’s cool about this version is that the app keeps a record of how long you stay unconnected and lets you compare yourself to other couples to see where you stand on the willpower scale.
Will these apps appeal? Be successful? Get downloaded? Who knows. We’re iterating our way there at Boulder Digital Works’ Making Digital Work workshop.
The above is my team’s contribution to the Lean Start Up portion of the workshop.
Led by Made by Many’s Tim Malbon, we actually break the class of 80 into eight start-up companies and put them through a process developed by Carbon 5. In one hour, each team has to identify eight problems worthy of solving, home in on one, visualize solutions, clarify how their new product will change the world, then develop two different versions each defined by distinct features. We give our ideas names, buy search keywords and post rough sites online to solicit feedback and see what works.
Want to get better at generating products, services, and software instead of ads? Try a different roadmap and approach to strategy. You can with this deck. It works pretty well.
Will update you later when we get some feedback on Rudeless, the company, and our new services — De-Rude and wePhone.
This is a lesson in social media, the danger of speaking without thinking, and the different ways in which content can get interpreted. (It might also be a lesson about good and bad advertising, but that’s secondary.) I share the story below in hopes that people might learn something. I know that I have.
Sunday afternoon, caught up in the brilliant performance of John Lackey who was pitching a shutout for the Boston Red Sox, I found myself annoyed by Eastern Bank’s frequent, half-second-long, transitional logo blasts. Without really thinking, I posted the following tweet: “ I am closing all accounts at Eastern Bank. Most annoying ad buy in history of sports on NESN Red Sox coverage.”
There are just two problems with this. One, I don’t have any accounts at Eastern Bank. And two, “in the history of sports,” is a pretty sweeping generalization. Hard, if not impossible, to back that one up. In my defense, I was attempting to make a point, throw in some drama, and see if anyone else out there felt the same way. I assumed that most people online aren’t totally literal — see this smart Tech Crunch piece — but I guess I could be found guilty of confusing hyperbole with irony.
Oh, and there’s one more little thing. Eastern Bank used to be a client of Mullen. I harbor no ill feelings of any kind regarding them or the relationship, but in retrospect that should have been disclosed.
Moments later I had second thoughts about my tweet, but as we all know seconds is a long time in an era of instant access and the web. I deleted it, but not before the cat was out of the bag and someone paying attention had sent it off to the marketing department at Eastern.
Yesterday, an executive from the bank sent me an email requesting we talk more about it. I have to give kudos to the bank for both paying attention and for reaching out. Shows they are tuned into the social conversation. I responded with a variation of the above, admitting my haste and arguable faux pas. But never one to hold back, I also suggested the following:
My personal advice would be to find a different way to present your logo and brand to viewers that is more inviting. In a fragmented media world and an era where attention is the new scarcity advertisers may have to take every opportunity to get their brand out there. However, in an age of social media when consumers have the power to opt into or out of a brand’s messages, advertisers also have a responsibility not to annoy. At times it’s a fine line, but if you err on the side of delight rather than harsh interruption you will win out in the long term.
These are trying times for advertisers. On one hand, the media landscape makes it essential that brands be present in as many different places as they possibly can. Compound that with an increasing scarcity of attention and advertisers have little choice but to find new ways to get those messages in front of us, if only for a second or two.
On the other hand, we live in an age of social media. It’s never been easier for consumers and viewers to pipe up, voice their opinion (positive or negative) and even take over the conversation. That means advertisers need both the good sense, if not the actual responsibility, to bring joy and delight to readers and watchers and not simply present self-serving messages that interrupt us.
However, this miniature case study also serves as a reminder that those of us taking advantage of our new-found powers and digital microphones should to use them more judiciously. I plan on trying to do a better of job of that in the future.
So what do you think? Are we entitled to shoot our mouths off? Should advertisers be held accountable for annoying work? Are we both in the wrong?
I didn’t say that. Winston Binch said it. Winston was one of the forces behind the emergence of Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s digital reputation, leading interactive efforts on clients such as American Express, Domino’s, Burger King and Best Buy. Before that he oversaw creative and technical development on much of Nike + at R/GA. So presumably he knows what he’s talking about. He recently left CP&B to join Deutsch and his ex VW client.
In the last few years, the advertising industry has seen never ending fragmentation and the emergence of specialized agencies in social media, digital creative, digital strategy, digital media and digital production. Some of those firms and the press that covered them rejoiced at least a little bit in proclaiming that traditional agencies didn’t get it. Their creative departments only knew how to do TV. They didn’t have embedded technology. They were too slow to change.
Now, however, it appears that we might see a reversal of that sentiment. Iain Tait resides at Wieden and Kennedy. Winston goes to Deutsch. Matt Howell joins Arnold. Mauro Cavaletti and Perry Fair come to Mullen.
Traditional agencies may still be developing campaign-like digital experiences, but it’s only a matter of time before they get as good at platforms and eco-systems as well for a few unarguable reasons. One, it’s harder and harder to separate one brand experience from another; they need to work together and agencies will figure out how to take the lead. Clients will tire of having to manage so many resources and the struggle to get them to all work seamlessly together. (Even if they want to they don’t always know how.) And, perhaps most importantly, great digital talent is realizing that they want to be part of the brand team, influencing the “big” idea itself, and so they’re concluding that ad agencies offer up the best opportunities.
If you need further evidence, you can always follow the dollars, not just the talent. Just today Ad Age reported that agencies are getting 28 percent of their revenue from digital, and while the bulk of those dollars are going to the likes of pure play digital shops, multiple billions are being divvied up by DR and traditional agencies.
At the same time, digital agencies are striving to develop so called traditional skills, seeking and hiring brand strategists, storytellers and TV talent. No doubt many will figure out that side of the business, too. (Ad agencies needed to learn social and digital to thrive; now digital agencies need to learn traditional branding and propagation.)
Clearly it’s become harder and harder to draw a line between what we’ve previously labeled advertising and digital. The best ideas transcend execution, media, and technology and combine all three. They have social media components to them. They happen in real time. And they call for incredibly diverse teams.
It’s all good news. For both sides of the agency equation and for clients as well. Storytellers will learn technology. Nerds will get more creative. And the outcomes will be more interesting. Will traditional agencies win? Or will all agencies end up tradigital?
Next week 10 of us from across the advertising and digital industry gather in Boulder for another two-day workshop, teaching and learning at Boulder Digital Works Executive Workshop. We’ll have 80 “students,” mid to senior-level agency folks mostly – account people, creative, planners – who are interested in getting their agencies to evolve more quickly, embracing the kind of work, teams and processes that will keep them relevant in an age of constant change.
Those attending think they’re traveling to Boulder for the content and the learning, which will be pretty darn good. But like the instructors who keep showing up — despite little or no compensation and a significant commitment of time and energy — they’ll discover they’re really coming for the community. The connections they make, with each other and with the instructors, will turn out to be as valuable as the talks and exercises they sit through during the two days.
BDW, with the help of the team above, has learned this lesson well. Those of us who gather to teach do so in large part because the workshops bring us together in a manner and place where we can not only share ideas and find new sources of inspiration, but where we can deepen relationships that extend well beyond the cluttered and noisy classroom.
At the same time, the school’s done an equally good job of connecting us to students (both workshop attendees and those in the graduate program) and the students to each other in ways that extend beyond specific events, whether it’s giving them access to ongoing sources of content or, in the case of graduate students, to mentors and prospective employers.
In some cases it’s been accomplished with a basic use of social media tools – they do a great job of connecting everyone via Twitter, a Posterous blog, and the BDW crowdsourced website – but also through a cultural mindset and commitment to keeping us connected. How many conferences have you been to where that’s not the case?
For anyone putting on a conference or a workshop, or launching yet another institute, here is thought worth keeping in mind: events last for a day or two; community lasts for years. Do a good job at both.
It was only a year or two ago when TV advertising was on its way out, or at least down. DVRs, the web and new distractions such as Facebook were going to make old- fashioned advertising less relevant.
Well guess what? It’s just the opposite. As media gets more and more fragmented, TV remains the only truly scalable option. Want broad reach quickly? TV advertising is the way to go and the numbers are proving it. Spending is up, Super Bowl spots are selling earlier than ever, and more and more big brands are increasing their commitments.
While none of that is surprising, what’s worth noting is this. It might be the likes of Twitter that’s getting more people to tune into live TV instead of watching it later on-demand.
It wasn’t much of a revelation in January when Nielson and Yahoo let us know that 86% of U.S. mobile Internet users watch TV with their devices in hand. But when you consider that 40 percent say they’re using their devices for social networking, or take note of the fact that the Super Bowl inspired upwards of 4000 tweets per second during parts of the game, it becomes apparent that instead of steering people away from TV, social media — the desire to weigh in, converse, and see what your community has to say — is helping resurrect it.
Fast Company may have been right when they suggested that Twitter could be TV’s killer app, cross pollinating the stream with live programming to create a truly interactive experience.
So what does this mean for advertisers? Did things just get easier? Can we all go back to buying 30-second TV spots?
Not so fast. The fact that everyone’s on a device while they’re watching a program makes it less likely they’re paying attention to ads, unless, of course, those ads are equally engaging and encouraging conversation as well. The web, instant access to information, and a reliance on search might free marketers from producing boring, fact dominated messages, but even the most creative executions probably need a way to engage consumers, from something as simple as a hashtag, to a concept that is, ideally, more immersive.
While predicting anything these days is a pretty futile exercise — it was only eight years ago when Mel Karmizan assured us that Google would fail because it was fucking with the magic, referring to the relationships that dominated how advertising was bought and sold — here’s what I think we can expect.
Brands will create more complex forms of advertising
If we’re all to engage and talk about the advertising, it can’t be boring or limited to outbound messages. We need more interactive, conversation-inspiring ideas that invite our participation. Think Frank Rose’s The Art of Immersion. More and more ads will include hashtags, start conversations and seek true consumer involvement, extending the story beyond the thirty-second spot.
Integrated agencies will have an advantage
We’ve seen the trend toward specialized media, digital and social media agencies reach its zenith. It’s pretty hard to get all of these disciplines to work seamlessly together inside one company, never mind across multiple agencies. Granted there are exceptions, but agencies that unite creative, media (paid, earned, owned) and digital will prevail.
Marketers will have to master true engagement
Most marketers continue to enter social media as if it’s a cheap place to stick messages, whether on Facebook or Twitter. Why else is Facebook (and soon Twitter) making such an effort to educate brands on what to do after they’ve acquired all those like clicks? Even Old Spice forgot that about it’s million followers after so brilliantly attracting them all. If advertisers expect social media to generate interest in their TV spots, they’ll need to get better at adding value to the conversation. Hint: discounts won’t be enough to build real loyalty.
Earned and paid media will need to work more seamlessly
This will be a tough one for agencies (and brands) that don’t have social oriented PR divisions made up of people who know how to listen, engage and interact in real time, focusing less on cleverness and more on support, responsiveness and interaction. The trick will be how to combine the Facebook and Twitter paid efforts with genuine conversation that keeps people coming back and paying attention. Those that get it will retain more followers and convert them to advocates.
Twitter will finally go mainstream
Every media property, blog and website by now has a link to Twitter with the annoying request “follow us on Twitter.” The words alone suggest that the consumer wants to show up for no other reason than to receive updates or messages. But as more and more TV shows and advertisers invite participation and opinion via the micro-blogging platform, they’ll do as much to drive the familiarity with Twitter as Twitter does to keep live TV going.
It’s ironic that advertising, which resisted getting digital and social while enduring the criticism of its increasing irrelevance by those newer media platforms, should now be back in driver’s seat. Certainly keeps things interesting.