Four Social Media Conversations

This is a very pretty bit of diagramming: The conversation prism, by Brian Solis and JESS3.

The converstation prism

What is shown here is simply different verticals and environments in which social media conversation takes place: its pretty small, so you cant really see, but you can download the image bigger on their homepage – or buy a poster of it for $20 if you have really poor eyesight. Point is, I’m doing some consultancy work around adapting digital strategy within these verticals at the moment, and have a couple of rising areas of interest. Its not one of those gay lists of ‘7 KEY FACTORS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS” – its just quite interesting.

1. Meta Conversations
Aggregation of audience is not necessarily about demographics but users within a vertical. So, if twitter communications link to twitter related content, they are more likely to be engaged with. Twitter is about linking cool stuff on the web. The closer you remain to these meta-conversations the more likely your stuff will spread (eg the more likely people are to retweet: engagement is another measure, not just clickthrough).

Picture 14

A good example is this case study of VW…they use twitter API based around your recent tweets to determine which VW is best for you. Whilst this might not actually be the case, it is certainly interesting and relevant to the the activities you are already involved in (eg twitter, profiling, ‘cool web stuff’). So, maybe ‘remarkable’ content sits between following the link and having to visit a more corporate homepage. Thus whilst clickthrough is desirable it is not the only measure: content drives engagement as a result of its proximity to vertical meta-conversations/norms/interests (eg innovative use of API).

2.Content in Context

My formula is Content in Context + Integration and Connection Reciprocality. The challenge may be to create content, pushed into contexts where it makes sense, that integrates with the same content in other verticals AND different content within that vertical. It is vital to achieve an optimum degree of permeability within the social media experience. Trade off between a brand homepage ‘hub’, the controlled, branded content within verticals (with gentle pointers to desired actions), and the uncontrolled, UGC social world. “What connects people to people to your brand is the creation and development of a collective purpose and meaning through the mutual exchange of ideas. Let us not limit our creativity by limiting our perspective on language or expression in the context of the brand” – @razorfish.

3. Making a Cup of Tea
People always forget individual difference. this is what Chris Hackley is often talking about. People’s context is influenced by multiple variables – what they’re doing at the time, where they are, who they are…whether upon linking through to some content they nip off to make a cup of tea; whether they have 20 minutes and are bored and resultantly play your online game for 30 minutes without really paying any attention. The only means of combating this would be to ensure you engage at a number of different points, to increase your chances of developing an interaction.

Don't be a Brand Slag

Don't be a Brand Slag

The guy I’m working with at the moment says ‘people might be ready to kiss the brand, but not ready to fuck just yet’. I think this is a bit crude, but it makes sense; the courting analogy, and always has done. Tom Himpe says ‘Brands tend to lack the necessary skills for this seduction ritual. They are used to revealing everything about themselves at the very first encounter, eager to get customers into the sack as soon as possible. But today’s savvy audience is reluctant to allow themselves to be seduced so quickly and openly. They prefer brands to seduce them little by little, revealing their messages slowly, intelligently and flirtatiously’.

Picture 15

4. Remark Upon Me!
At the end of the day, you talk about stuff that’s remarkable: that makes you remark upon it. Social media is no different – people converse around stuff that is remarkable, and it is this stuff that gets shared and discussed and engaged with. So there you go, planners and brand strategists of the world, there’s your creative brief written: Create something remarkable that people will share and remark upon. Job done.


Chris Hackley on UK TV Product Placement

Chris Hackley, Professor of Marketing at Royal Holloway, recently asked me to feature his article on UK TV Product Placement on I’d just finished eating a delicious DOMINO’S PIZZA and a refreshing can of COCA-COLA, and had some spare time (checking on my CASIO watch) before using my iPHONE to check my EBAY to find out if I’d managed to win my bid on THE BRAND NEW, FANTASTIC RENAULT CLIO…so jokes aside, here it is, Chris!

His paper addresses the fact that the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham’s recent announcement to leave Ofcom’s PP ban in the UK unchanged misses an opportunity to update regulations to the benefit of UK TV companies and viewers. This means, in effect, that, UK commercial and non-commercial TV will be subsidising American TV.

He outlines the benefits of PP on TV, saying:

“Product placement is taking an increasing share of promotional budget for brand clients because of its value and persuasive power. Not only are TV shows ideal vehicles for brands because they can portray the product in use, identified with celebrities and celebrity culture.”

Take a look at this clip from ‘Spiderman’ – I can’t even count the amount of brands in there.

But in real life, we are surrounded by Brands, so why not in films or TV?

Anyway, back to Chris’ article. From a commercial perspective, he argues that:

“British TV is awash with brands in both domestic and imported programming. There is already a thriving product placement industry in the UK. It gets around the regulations by giving branded props free of charge to programme makers…The UK’s ‘free prop supply’ system, though, has a number of anomalies. Not least, it means that UK TV channels receive no revenue for the placements, which appear in syndicated American shows. When these are aired in the UK on both commercial and non-commercial TV it effectively adds value to product placement in those shows at no cost to the US TV companies or their brand clients…The Ofcom ban results in a false market rate for product placement.”

He also considers the argument from a more ethical stance, considering the consumer perspective:

“The fact that many young viewers, in particular, are indifferent to or cynical about the putative distinction between editorial and advertising in broadcast media is not a reason to abandon the principle. However, the younger viewing public are, generally, fully aware of the commercial inter-relationships which obtain in mediated entertainment. They often assume that brands in the script, scene or plot of a mediated entertainment vehicle are there partly from a promotional motive, even though most brands in TV, even in the USA, are there by coincidence, for dramatic verisimilitude, and not by contractual arrangement…If all paid for product placement were to be allowed, viewers could make this very assumption by default.”

And concludes that:

“At a time when revenues are being squeezed the fact that the UK commercial and non-commercial broadcasters air syndicated shows from the USA means that, in effect, the UK TV industry will continue to subsidize American TV producers.”

The full article is linked here.

So what do people think? In my opinion, the discussion is summarised accurately in one of Chris’ statements: “Consumers are well-aware that brands cannot be allowed to drive the plot, narrative or cinematography. Movies that feature too many, or excessively obvious, placements are subject to robust mockery by audiences.”

One doesn’t have to take as extreme a view as David Lynch on the topic (see below) – but there is certainly an argument against PP.

Remember the discussion surrounding ‘The Island’, ‘Minority Report’, ‘Spiderman’ (see video at the top of this post) and more recently and arguably blatantly in ‘I, Robot’ and ‘Casino Royale’…my personal favourite being the line in the Bond film, synonymous with PP in recent years, where Vesper Lynd asks Bond whether his watch was a Rolex as it looked expensive. When he told her it was an Omega, she replied “a beautiful watch”. Nice – but is it shameless promotion or an attempt at more modal conversation? Channel 5 drama Neighbours often references popular culture in an attempt to appear ‘cool’ or more realistic (“I love that new Maroon 5 song…what’s it called…”), seemingly without particular commercial gain. As Chris continues:

“On the other hand, brands that are integrated into the narrative development can enhance the quality of entertainment by deepening the sense of reality or visually reinforcing the symbolism of character and action.”

Viewers are not stupid, but can appreciate the use of brands to increase programme modality. Further, with in-game PP (Eg on the boards surrounding the track in a racing computer game); and the rise and ease of digital product placement (where brands and products can be superimposed onto the show post-filming – so the products needn’t actually be therre in the first palce – for a really interesting video on this see this CBS NEW VIDEO (sorry couldn’t embed it) on the up, the debate will continue – but it still comes down to firstly the degree of modality evoked in the use of PP, and the way it is contextualized within the narrative / look and feel of the TV show, film or computer game. If, as a discerning TV viewer, you notice a can of Dr Pepper on screen and immediately feel the urge to go out and buy the reportedly misunderstood beverage, there is probably something wrong with you. But that is not to say it’s OK for brands to slap you in the face whilst you’re watching a show. The question, perhaps is whether you prefer this contextualized form of branding to a 5 minute ad break.

Right, I’m off to enjoy a nice cup of delicious PG TIPS and a mouth watering OREO. Bye!

Free Weed? It’s Pot Luck!

Promoters of the film ‘The Wackness‘, Revolver Entertainment are actually giving away the opportunity to win a bag of weed with the first 1000 copies of the DVD, a la Willy Wonka and his golden tickets. Ananova announce ‘The finder of the golden ticket wins a weekend for two in Amsterdam where they will collect a gram of high-grade skunk, courtesy of Revolver.’

The film is pretty good, the IMDB synopsis says: “It’s the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip-hop. Set against this backdrop, a lonely teenager named Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) spends his last summer before university selling marijuana throughout New York City, trading it with his unorthodox psychotherapist (Ben Kingsley) for treatment, while having a crush on his stepdaughter”.

But moreover, it’s a bloody marvelous prize, and a bloody great piece of WOM generating marketing.

Hook? Give people drugs to buy your stuff.

[via JPL]

Managing the Creative Process: Boundaries, Ownership and Expectations

This is a paper I’m writing at the moment. Was looking for any thoughts.

Specifically it looks at managing the Creative Process with regard to Boundaries, Ownership and Expectations. That is, ‘boundaries’ between individuals / disciplines / strategies / organisations / cultures, and the ‘boundary objects’ linking them; ‘ownership’ as in how vested individuals or organisations are in a particular project / brand; and expectations as in managing expectations.

Further, the paper looks at intra-agency processes, and how issues of boundaries and disparities between ‘local worlds’ (eg different divisions within the organisation; different organisations) can affect the delivery of creative services in a sort of ‘Chinese Whispers’ sense. It attempts to remove the general consideration of ‘creativity’ as a ‘black-boxed’ process, with a ‘crudely imposed supply chain logic’ (Bilton, 2006) and more generally to integrate the ideas of ‘creativity’ and ‘management’.

This general idea is then extended to include inter-agency processes, and how the complexities underpinning the delivery of creativity extend vertically and horizontally through the value chain considering, for example, managing client expectations, and managing ownership over a project both at an individual and organisational level.


Roadkill Flavour anyone?


Walkers have announced the winners of their ‘Do us a flavour, win a packet’ campaign, and you can now vote on which flavour you think is the best. Surprisingly, my suggestion of ‘Roadkill’ flavour is not shortlisted, although I love the idea of special editions specified by their location (eg ‘Possibly a Fox, Just off Junction 4 on the A526’), and the subsequent interactive media implications (geo-tagging, ‘Roadkill Flavour’ Walker’s Google Maps app etc…)…I did in fact receive an ‘inappropriateness’ letter in return from Walkers indicating that it would not be considered. Their loss. Although; ‘Cajun Squirrel’?…maybe they did rip off my idea….

First of all I wanted to comment on what an excellent piece of old-school copywriting this was in the first place: it is funny, clever, relevant, and engaging, and has two (yes count them, two) puns in only one sentence. Excellent.

Secondly, I think the flavours that have come out of the public’s collective imagination are pretty damned good. ‘Chilli and Chocolate’ is a personal favourite of mine (with steak, nice)…’Onion Bhaji’ is another likely favourite (although I’m not sure about its representation in the image above of just having ‘an Indian woman’…is that particularly PC? I don’t know. Maybe it’s better than an oriental woman with a duck on her head)…and ‘Builder’s Breakfast’ sounds nice if a bit filthy.

Moreover, it’s a good bit of fun that certainly sparked conversation over what people might suggest, often with reasonably humorous outcomes. I’m not sure if this is a reasonably humorous outcome, but I found it funny:

PLUS, Heston Blumenthal judging to boot.