March 2, 2018

Lacoste’s  Alligator Steps Aside for Conservation

Lacoste, formerly IZOD- a brand that peaked in the 80s and 90s but has faded out of mainstream fashion is hoping to draw some attention  through a new campaign partnering with Union for Conservation of Nature. An article by Fast Company tells us the campaign will feature limited edition polos that replace the iconic alligator logo with depictions of 10 threatened animals in efforts to help protect the remaining wildlife. The shirts can be seen in detail on the Lacoste France website. We also like the simplicity of this shot from Creative Review's instagram feed.
Lacoste is only creating the quantity of polos that corresponds to the number of each species recorded in the wild. “Since there are only 350 Sumatran tigers, there will be only 350 tiger logo polos for sale. The gulf of California porpoise only gets 30 shirts, due to its dwindling numbers.”
Take a look here.
Cause marketing continues to gain steam as brands develop their social and political voices. But the incentives can’t be ignored. Is the true alignment to the cause as strong as the benefit for the brand? Is the brand exposing issues that would have been unnoticed by the general public?
These questions have to be taken seriously to work authentically. For now we can be appreciative of brands taking steps to tackle the issues that define their position in an ever complicated world.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 27, 2018

Were The 2018 Winter Olympics World Class?

This year’s Winter Olympics were more connected than ever, and there were more ways to watch them than ever before. Viewers could even receive text updates from NBC when their favorite athlete made his/her debut.
The number of people using NBC’s app to stream the Olympics this year was impressive. 11.6 million users have been reported along with a 174 percent increase over the 2014 streaming audience (NPR). But despite these media factors, viewership was still down from the last Winter Olympics held in Sochi.
An article from NPR states, “overall in prime time, from the start of the games to Monday, the boost from total audience delivery was just 12 percent. This data suggests that traditional network TV viewing is still the way most viewers watch the games. And like much broadcast TV, there is an erosion in prime-time viewership.”
This is an interesting problem to solve. Most people want to watch the Olympics on TV, it’s a  tradition people are used to. But that tradition doesn’t line up with modern media habits. People don't want to adjust their schedules to tune in to the event  they want to watch in real-time.
Streaming is more popular than ever and traditional television viewership is declining. The decline in overall viewership seems mostly attributable to the rate of change in the TV and video user experiences combined with totally different media consumption behaviors. As mass audiences get used to viewing on their own terms in their own time — what’s the incentive to go back and watch an event if the outcome is already in the headlines? 
The media environment is changing too fast for the Olympics' media partners to iron out the best viewing product? We'll have to wait two or four more years to see if the program offering catches up with audience behavior and viewing preferences.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 1, 2018

The Big Game — Super Bowl LII Ads

AdWeek's Super Bowl Ad Tracker received a fresh round of updates this week giving the world an early glimpse of what will likely be some of the most talked about brands of the year.
Personally, I try not to do too much "teaser" viewing before the event because I still like to experience the ads in the traditional environment and evaluate the impact with other folks, who don't work in advertising.
It's fun to see which spots demand attention and what may get missed in real time.
Also, there's no way I won't see every spot by early next week so I try pretty hard not to get too far in front of game-time unveiling. However, the Avocados from Mexico spot got me curious. It's arguably the most relevant product for the experience. They've done some pretty absurd and inventive things in the past, so I just had to check it out.

The spot is pretty clever and goes a long way to make a really simple point. But what really got me was the peculiar Chris Elliott cameo. I'm a big fan (See Get a Life and Handsome Boy Modeling School). His absurd presence in the ad forced me to YouTube which paid off with another Chris Elliott spot that sets up the first one.
Bizarre, entertaining, and well received with this focus group of one. This foray into Super Bowl sneak peeks should whet the appetite and keep me satisfied enough to wait for the full course on Sunday.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 20, 2017

Is Media Becoming More Human?

Authenticity was probably the biggest buzzword of the marketing and advertising industry last year. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards illustrated something worth calling attention to with regard to this idea. We discussed this “very real” moment on Monday morning after the Grammys and that conversation inspired this post.

Adele’s tribute to George Michael – This performance was going to be emotional and challenging for her no matter how well it was rehearsed. Because Adele’s admiration for the late George Michael is pure. Mid-performance, Adele sensed something was off. She stopped the show and apologized. Then she composed herself and continued on.

It was an uneasy few moments but what followed was a very sincere performance. The audience was moved to a standing ovation and Adele was brought to tears. This moment allowed her fans and George Michael’s fans to love her for her sincerity, her vulnerability and ultimately her power and rawness.

What does this have to do with advertising?

A lot really. When you consider the elements of brand, audience and media platform, it’s pretty fascinating. This moment in time illustrates how the audience’s expectation of mass media is evolving.

Once upon a time, media meant TV, radio and print. It was mostly about a refined, polished, scrutinized product. The people on the other side of it were characters. They were relatable but usually not all that real in terms of relationship and connection with audience.

Modern communication has narrowed the gap between audience and presentation. We effortlessly transition from cheering for our favorite team, to Facetiming with family, to watching breaking news unfold while sending snaps to our closest friends. We do all of this in sequence on the same screen or simultaneously across several. We are unphased by the blurring lines between scripted entertainment and real life. We have personal brands and celebrity “friends.” It’s all convening.

So when every intimate connection in your life can be experienced through media platforms, authenticity becomes a requirement. Of celebrities and brands too.

We are linked to entertainment and so are world class performers who are being the entertainers for us through all media platforms, giving us a look into their “personal lives”. As a result, we are more able to see world class performers as relatable human beings, if they have the tact and grace to allow it. We’re pretty used to relating to people we know through the screen.

Adele broke any expectation that TV is about a polished product by starting over. She chose to get it right and honor George Michael over scrambling to preserve an outdated standard of professional presentation. In turn, her audience loved her for it.

Looking back on other unplanned moments, we’ve seen different scenarios play out.

Mariah Carey had her own live break down episode on New Year's Eve, and even though the circumstances were out of her control, she was criticized pretty harshly for her less tactful reaction to the moment.

A little further back, Steve Harvey made a mistake on live TV  announcing the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant and he was harshly criticized for it. He was the subject of a volume of memes for the next few days, but he handled the whole thing in stride and it eventually faded out.

Janet Jackson had a “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl in the dawn of TiVo. Remember that? People were shocked that this happened right as digital video recording was gaining traction. Now, it’s assumed that anything happening on TV is instantly searchable online, and TiVo itself is a pretty dated reference.

The TV experience itself is being redefined to support our preference for more agile and in-the-moment communication. The biggest stories and best things to see are the ones that involve something unexpected and human.

As a result, today we are seeing more live experiences and more emphasis in the media on what is happening – right now. The ads in Super Bowl LI illustrate that point.

We have more understanding and even more appreciation for productions that go well, if not according to plan. We are definitely beginning to expect our media technology and the message it carries to be present and responsive. Beyond that, if we’re paying attention, we may also see some new beauty and a potential for greater shared humanity emerging with it.

Christie Hach
Account Director

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

Emily Mondloch
Market Research and Insights

February 3, 2017

Brands Vying for Super Bowl Spotlight

It’s Super Bowl time! The big game is synonymous with creative advertising but this year the creativity is just as much about inventive execution as clever concept. So, what’s next?
Brands are not settling for a $5 million, 30-second tv spot. More than ever, they're striving to make an impact on viewers through relevant, timely, and yes, creative ideas. We have kept a close eye on Adweek’s 2017 Super Bowl Ad Tracker and here are some of the freshest approaches to Super Bowl LI advertising:
Heinz will not run an ad during the game but is declaring Feb 6 (the Monday after) a national holiday called, “Smunday.” All employees at Kraft Heinz offices in the United States will have that day off and a petition has been released in hopes to get 100,000 signatures. According to Adweek, Nicole Kulwicki (head of Heinz) says, "That's how many we think we need to get Congress to take us seriously," she says. "We're doing this in good fun, but with the intent that it will actually become a national holiday.”  Brilliant. If they can get traction for a national holiday – and let’s be honest, that makes some very popular sense – the brand will forever benefit.
Snickers will have the first ever live ad during the Super Bowl. Adam Driver of HBO’s Girls and character “Kylo Ren” in Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be starring in the commercial alongside of horses and cowboys. That is the only information we know as of now from the teasers. Going on right now is a live stream from the set of the commercial that started yesterday at noon and continuing until midnight tonight. Taking a live streaming content approach to television advertising is a pretty radical move. We’ll see more of this.
Hyundai Motor America CMO Dean Evans says, “The Super Bowl is the biggest day in advertising, and following our incredibly successful 2016, we wanted to push the creativity and storytelling even further.” This year Hyundai plans to air a 90-second ad right after the game is over and before the trophy ceremony. The catch is that the spot will be filmed during the actual game, documentary style. There is still little information on what to expect during the spot but condensing the concept and production to embrace real time probably requires it to be not only secret but unfinished. We’ll see!
Intel took a risk by filming a 30-second ad starring Tom Brady before the Patriots had even made it to the Super Bowl. Their leap of faith will now pay off and the brand will gain more attention from Brady’s fans during the spot. We love this example because it leverages the production of more traditional spots but the brand took a big gamble on embedding the event into the creative for some massively topical payoff.
Febreze will definitely attract eyes during their bold spot about the “halftime bathroom break” which is airing in the second quarter. The company has found a comical way to stay relevant during the game and give a friendly reminder that Febreze is there for you, as funny as it sounds. Even a more typically produced spot is working to speak directly to the home audience experience.
It’s a fascinating time in media and advertising. Remember Oreo’s epic tweet during the unexpected power outage of Super Bowl XLVII? That real time moment of cross channel brilliance caused Oreo to be the talk of the event that year. They kicked off this type of thinking by pushing the brand far outside the boundaries of the game screen and set the challenge to brands to make a memorable impact during the Super Bowl for years to come.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research and Insights
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

December 5, 2016

Patagonia Boosts Black Friday Values

Earlier this fall, Patagonia committed to donating 100% of its Black Friday revenue to grassroots environmental groups. They originally projected to net $2 million in revenue, but donating proceeds stirred up a lot more interest than they forecasted.

The company is an environmentally focused, for-profit, B Corp. This means they contribute in various ways to address public concerns around the environment and sustainability. They are a member of 1% for the Planet year round. This approach to Black Friday pushed the emphasis of their year-round, evergreen sustainability position into added incentive for the customer and added equity for their corporate values.

Read more

November 7, 2016

There's More Content Than Time to Absorb It

There's more content than time to absorb it. That's why algorithms are useful. They anticipate what we want to see.

In Facebook’s own words: “News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them.”

When striving to reach an audience in the Facebook newsfeed, relevance is key. Organic audience interest is usually not enough to earn exposure within campaign timelines. So paid advertising with great targeting options are a nice and effective way to get a message through.

A few years ago Facebook made a change that dramatically hampered the organic reach of business pages. Small businesses and social media marketers were in an uproar.  From that point on, businesses essentially had to pay to be seen at all.

The idea was to prioritize organic interest of the audience over the promotional agenda of the post and to better serve all users in the process. In effect, this forced more businesses into the advertising platform where they’re led to specify an audience and a campaign goal. Much better for all parties than shouting into a crowd.

This change served the advertiser and the audience. It put small businesses in check, keeping them from saturating feeds with overly salesy come-ons that the audience won’t value. It channeled marketers of all kinds into affordable ad channels and challenged them to create engaging content to overcome the more limited organic reach. Facebook made a pretty good explanation at the time.

However, the clamp down on organic reach continues today and there's no shortage of advertisers to bid for the inventory. As a result, I’m noticing a lack of welcome organic content in my own feed and over-saturation of ads that I don’t appreciate. I am finding more often that I never see posts from pages that I truly care about. I am also discovering that I already like pages I didn’t know I was following because I never see their content.

“I already like this page? Where’s it been?"

You can set notifications for desired content but that’s getting just a bit too manual for my taste. I don’t need more little red highlights calling for my attention. I do want a better experience and a more relevant newsfeed.

There is another downside to the lack of the content I’ve opted-in to receive: It makes more room for “swagvertising” ads. The biggest offenders in my feed are these really subpar t-shirt pages blindly calling out things I love like mountain biking, running, beer or deceased musicians like Pete Seeger, Bob Marley and J Dilla. Landmark artists whose names have been reduced to a merchandise license in this context. These ads are defensibly “relevant to my interests” and probably return a profit, but I use them to illustrate a point. These businesses are missing the mark by targeting me.

If Facebook is sincere about "showing each person the content that's most relevant to them" then they need to tweak the levels a bit. For instance, figure out how to let Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine tell me which elected leaders are actually doing something to protect the parks and rivers of this region. I really care about that. This publication is working hard to convey it. Facebook would get a lot of credit for making access to that valuable info much easier. While we’re at it, please don’t let Wacky Tee Fiendz try to sell me any more poly/cotton landfill fodder. That seems like a fair exchange to me.

All things considered, I give Facebook a ton of credit in this realm. They are focused on a good user experience. They are in many ways improving a native advertising model for users and advertisers. However, as the pendulum swings too far away from deep/organic relevance toward shallow/paid relevance, a correction should be made to the algorithm.

But with quantifiable revenue immediately behind that swing, it will likely be much less nimble correcting back toward the less tangible value of substance.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

September 8, 2016

How Relevant is Facebook Advertising?

It's easy to get a look inside the logic. Log in and check this out:

This is not just a list of the pages and profiles you’ve liked. It’s also an index of the types of content you’ve shared and interacted with. It’s essentially an inference of interests. Go check it out.

Maybe it’s time to prune the garden of your profile. Pull some weeds. Like that show, “Weeds.” Remember that show? Well if Facebook “thinks” you liked it, then that interest may be used to serve you ads.

At first take, this topic is received as one of privacy concerns. People are a little creeped out to see what Facebook has gotten wrong or worse, what Facebook has gotten right. However, I think it's more about the relevance of the advertising and your right to curate and design the criteria by which you are served ads.

When I first went in to my preferences, I was surprised to find that Facebook had me tagged for a variety of broad political topics and religious and spiritual affiliations. This explains some of the ads I saw in my newsfeed and subsequently flagged “not relevant,” which is a more localized preference setting.

Needless to labor the point, I removed some of the things I considered a misinterpretation of interest. However, I left most of the things that I do find relevant and would invite advertisers to know.

It’s no big secret that online advertising has privacy, transparency and relevance issues to resolve but I am encouraged by tools like this. As I see it, it represents an evolving participatory democracy where audience and advertiser can agree to engage and improve the value of the advertising in the process.

Jeff Smack
Digital Communication Director

May 24, 2016

Marketing Authenticity is Not a Millennial Thing

"Marketing to Millennials." It's a hot topic that almost exclusively involves older non-Millennials talking to other, older non-Millennials about what Millennials like and what “they” respond to.

This is not new. Older generations of advertisers have always spoken about younger generations of consumers like they’re bass in a pond.

We can travel back a few years and see the same approach to a young Gen Y and Gen X, even beyond Boomers the same generational trappings persist. The same wisdom comes back in response: “Be Authentic.” This authenticity conversation is already shifting to Gen Z.

Gen X is the generation that birthed Punk Rock and Hip Hop. Marketing co-opted those styles to much criticism and controversy just like the counter cultures that preceded them. Over time, marketing has refined the commercial application of culture to a degree that is basically standard fare today.

The most recent generation of young adults doesn’t draw lines between marketing and culture much at all. It’s interwoven. Older generations might argue that authenticity is dead in marketing terms. But it’s not. It’s simply been redefined by the emerging generation. Today it’s baked in. Culture and marketing are both largely supported by an internet connection so it doesn’t tend to feel as abrupt or artificial when the messages merge.

“Be Authentic” is reborn as earlier generations move into new life phases. Attitudes and behaviors evolve as well. The authenticity mantra is more necessary each time it’s redefined.

We have to find newer ways to interact with greater investment in what our audience feels, cares about and values. Any approach risks becoming a hackneyed tactic. If it’s overused, it’s less effective no matter what the message is or who’s behind it.

Good human communication can only be done well with empathy for the other side of the conversation.

As marketers and consumers, or friends and family, we are a connected community of audience. We have the info and access to reach most people at any time. If we know how to meet our audience, whether it’s our customers or our family, in a way that matters to them then we are able to keep open lines of communication. With open lines, we are free to focus on relevant exchanges and achieve greater authenticity and deeper relationships.

As far as talking to Millennials goes, you don’t have to know what a top knot is if you communicate with empathy and relevance.

Jeff Smack
Digital Communications Director

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