Posts By: Kate Nightingale

Why brands still need a bit more convincing. (And a couple of handy stats.)

The results of an IAB and Opinion Matters survey amongst brands appeared in Marketing Mag todayunder the headline ‘Major Brands Sceptical of Social Media’. The article presents a few stats from the study, which investigated the views of 80 senior-level marketers. These included the fact that almost a quarter (22%) of brands have made social media a core part of their communications strategy, whilst our research found that only 7% of respondents haven’t yet embraced social media in any way.

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In digital, we can’t make up our minds.

Although that’s not actually the case… I’ve been to many a mutually-beneficial meeting within which a bunch of like-minded digital aficionados have taken to agreeing relentlessly and mulling over the wonder of this massive medium. To great effect. But we do like to debate.

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Gaga gets it! And puts online consumers first.

gaga kermit dressI’ve noticed that I generally start a blog post apologising for the many celebrity references, and not talkingovertly about advertising, but I guess brands can actually learn a lot from the rich and famous, who are of course brands in themselves, and digitally some of the most forward-thinking there are. Step forward Lady Gaga, a current obsession of a couple of IABers, not just because she has good music and clothes, but also because she’s a fan of… online video! In a recent interview with Newsweek, Gaga spoke about the structure and look of her performances, which are tailored to suit the online viewer:

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Madonna must have listened…

As a firm follower of celebrity and pop-lovin’ sites, I’ve been waiting with baited breath for the release of Madonna’s full-length video for her latest release, ‘Celebration’. Not because I like the song, but because for the past week her people have been releasing video ‘teasers’, tempting us with 15-second clips of what we believed to be highlights of the final version.What I found interesting about the end product – aside from all of Madonna’s totally unnecessary dry-humping of walls – was that Paul Oakenfold was nowhere to be found. Last week’s ‘Paul Oakenfold teaser’ showed scenes of the DJ doing what could only be described as granddad dancing, which were promptly ripped to pieces across the celebrity-obsessed blogs of the world wide web, with sites such as popjustice and Holy Moly ridiculing his final-song-at-a-wedding-esque moves. Just goes to show that DJs should never dance.

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Why 27,586 people probably love Marks and Spencer a little bit more.

For a while now I’ve been trying to avoid Twitter like the plague. Not because it offends me in any way but purely just to make a point, to myself, that I’m not the kind of person to be dragged along by the bandwagon, mile after mile, knees furiously grazing, clothes ripping on the gravelly floor and the air filled with my cries of ‘but it’s cooooooool! Everyone is dooooing iiiiiiiiiit!’

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Amy, your rankings have been changed.

Yesterday afternoon I received a lovely email from one of those Facebook application things, telling me that my ‘compare people’ ratings had changed, and that whilst I was still number 1 amongst my friends in terms of best sense of humour (of course!) and I’d gained a few places and now was the 3rd cutest (HELL yeah!) some of my ‘rankings’ had dropped and I was now only the 8th most outgoing, and I’d lost 2 places to become only the 3rd most powerful, disappointing… So many thanks to the ‘compare people’ application for making me doubt my ability to socialise and the perceived power I hold over my social networking pals!

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Skittles, famous for 15 days?

Skittles, famous for 15 minutes?

So yes, I’m jumping on a bandwagon and my title should get me on their feed when we announce this blog post on Twitter later today. And obviously I’m mature enough to refrain from saying thatthey’re the root of all evil, taste of acidor that the old TV ads where the woman whispered ‘taste the rainbow’ at the end really made my skin crawl. In fact (just as an aside) any TV ad that includes whispering of any kind immediately makes me want to throw up or cut off my own ears, and that includes ‘sexy’ talking that M&S are so proud of…
I decided to write this post because I think it’s been long enough since the initial flurry of media commentary to evaluate what I think is an excellent social media case study, and I’ve been wanting to talk about it for a while. I’m fully aware that I’m just one of thousands who are doing the same, and whenIAB marketing director Kieron Matthews wrote about the application a couple of weeks ago, the response to it was incredibly mixed. The terms ‘creativerip-off’ and ‘strategic failure’ were bandedaround simply because a similar idea had been executed before… which confuses me slightly. Does this mean a brand’s own website is a creative rip-off? And every time a brand launches a group on MySpace, or Facebook, should be criticised because people have been doing it for ages? Should we disregard banners entirely because my God they are SUCH old news!? And what about search, people have been doing it for years now, how totally dull! (‘No’ is the answer to all those previous questions by the way, the IAB loves search and online display advertising, always has and always will!)
This constant quest for uncovering the ‘next big thing’, strivingto come up with something completely new and conquering online’s unchartered territory is, quite frankly, what may be putting some brands off. Why does there seem to be so much pressure to try something so creatively mindblowing and technologically advanced that no one has ever dreamt about before, let alone incorprated it into their marketing plans? For those of us who work in digital 24/7, pushing those boundaries may seem like the only option, but for marketers who need to justify budgets and prove theirreturn on investment in some way, maybe now is not the time to criticise brands who are learning from the work of others andadapting it to suit their own strategic objectives.
And of course there was the big ‘hoo ha’ surrounding the comments people made on the various social media properties, whichapparently meant the campaign was not a success. Shock horror, someone said the word ‘c*nt!’ Because of course, any kind of bad language or negative response simply doesn’t exist in our wonderful little advertising bubble! In my opinion not moderating or censoring the UGC was the best thingthatSkittles could have done, and rather than resulting in a big old public relations mess, actually made them stand out as a brand that is happy to open its eyes and ears to exactly what normal human beings may say to each other from time to time. Does anyone really believe that a statement such as ‘Hey! I love iced gems, this campaign was great so let’s all buy them!’ posted on some forum or other will actually have any impact whatsoever, whereas ‘Skittles: Eating one at a time or going for the full cheeked, teeth crinkling, power rush sensation?’ and ‘In business bored. William just handed me a skittles wrapper and said it was a fruit flavored condom. I’m worried.’ which Ifound on Twitter today,are a lot more authentic.
My point here is similar to previous points of mine, which is, why can’t we just applaud stuff that’s good!? The fact is that this recent activity probably had about as much impact as a TV ad would:it made them famous for a while, plusit was more interesting and actually got people involved.The debate about whether it’s worked is ongoing, and some make the point that all these online conversations were about the nitty gritty of execution and inevitable reaction rather than the content itself. But at least there were conversations, which the Skittles brand had sparkedand facilitated. Do I like Skittles? No, I hate the things, they taste horribly weird and are far too chewy. But do I respect Skittles as a brand, maybe even like them a bit more? Most definitely. What will be interesting now is how they sustain this chatter and keep consumers interested in the long-term.

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"It may be dry, but it’s massive…"

Antony Mayfield from iCrossingYesterday, one of my colleagues, (a big search advertising fan) was waxing lyrical to me about search, ahead of our event, IAB Engage for Search this morning. “It may be dry, but it’s massive” he said… LikeI needed any persuading!
But actually, I only agree with half of that statement. Search IS massive. Even in this wonderful, happy, silver-lining of an economic climate that we’re currently dwelling in, it’s proved itself an infallible medium, and based on thepresentations today it seemslikethe industry’s only just getting started in many ways – mobile search for example is set to be huge.But I totally disagree that it’s dry… In reality – and thanks to some great speakers today – search is a very dynamic place. It’s an area of online that’s constantly improving and adapting as consumer behaviour gets more sophisticated.
I always talk about social media, and this blog post will be no exception, but what interested me today is the extent to which search and social media are so inextricably linked. Like a ‘horse and carriage’ in fact, according toAntony Mayfield from iCrossing who spoke today about how search should be at the heart of your brand marketing strategy – it’s a reputation management tool and consumer search activity can provide us with excellent insights into what they’re looking for (obviously!) and when, and why.Search results tell you (and the general online audience) what people are saying about your brand, and whether you’re doing enough (particularly in terms of SEO) to manage that, and provide consumers with sufficient signposting to the rest of your social media activity – the fun stuff! Searchshould beconsidered a core part of your social media strategy, and should bemonitored regularlyto ensure that you’re making the most of it, because on the search pages (whichever search engine you may be using…) is where your audiences are starting the bulk of their online sessions.
At the IAB, welike tobang the drum for integration – too often specific online disciplines are dealt with in isolation, which brings me to another great speaker from today. Brandon Keenen from Platform A urged our delegates to talk to each other, not literally during his presentation of course (imagine the distraction!) but in terms of the different departments within our organisations.Your search folks need to talk to your social media folks, and your social media team to your ecommerce team and so on, because every single part of a brand needs to know what your strategy is, what your values are, and how you can best talk to people to communicate these objectives.
I’m hoping that one day we talk less about ‘search’ and ‘social media’ and ‘display’ (etc etc) as standalone tools, but more about ONLINE marketing, as a whole, which essentially puts the consumer first and follows them wherever they may be (again, not literally, there’s privacy issues here too!) and presents to them one key marketing message that they understand and can act upon if they wish. None of it’s dry, all of it’s essential, and as a medium, it will stayunequivocally massive.
For pictures of the event click here.

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When social media goes BAD.

After attending our ‘Engage for Social Media’ conference today,I can now wholeheartedly confirm exactly what I’ve been suspecting for some years: that social media is perhaps the most exciting, dynamic, innovative form of advertising ever to exist. That’s until, obviously, someone invents 3D interactiveTVs that enable you to taste new products and smell new perfumes, and hologramatic shop assistants who enter your home upon request,knowing exacly what your likes anddislikes are…. One day people, one day.
It’s a marketing discipline with stories.Alongside the now-obligatory Obama example, who’s clearly made an impact in social media circles, each speaker had a new and interesting tale to tell about how brands such as Pepsi, LG, Orange and Cadbury have used a range of platforms to great effect. Not always necessarily more sales I might add, but in the case of Market Sentinel they were happy to announce that Cadbury created £25 of revenue through monitoring conversations about Wispa.
What was interesting, however, were the questions about what happens (likeone of those late night Channel 5 shows…) when SOCIAL MEDIA GOES BAD. It’s certainly a common concern from brands, what do they do if their social media activityis misintepreted in some way, received badly or achieves negative coverage and generaly just pisses people off (I doubt that would ever be an original campaign objective?) I can understand why, with a lack of experience in the area this may be a worry, however we need to stop thinking about social media in such separate terms, and as a ‘whole new world’, because advertising is advertising, regardless of the channel. How often do you think clients approach the production of a TV ad with caution, in fear of a negative reaction? In my opinion a poor TV ad can be far more harmful to a brand and the resulting public perception can last a lot longer. The fact is, with TV or most traditional media you have very you have very little control over how it is received (going back to thewhole sender-receiver model of communication, etc etc), yet with social media you have more control than ever. You can listen, respond and adapt your marketing to suit your audience, and this activity can be ongoing. As Emily Dent, head of content at St Lukes said in the opening presentation this morning, obviously people often talk about campaigns in advertising, but with social media it’s essential to not think only in these terms, because essentially you’re letting your brand live online. And even making mistakes can provide a valuable lesson!

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The best night of my life!

Nike AKQAOr maybe one of the best nightsI had this week, wasyesterday’s Creative Showcase awards event, which we held in association with Microsoft Advertising (full review on the IAB site).And didn’t AKQA do well! Not only did they win Agency of the Year for the most successes throughout 2008, but also the most Contagious Award for Fiat eco:drive, which “has a practical application for the real world, that can genuinely improve the lives of people that use it”. They also won the Microsoft Advertising Most Innovative Campaign Award for their Nike Bootcamp work.
Without being too OTT about my respect for AKQA –because this year’s entries were by the far the best we’d seen across the board–what makes them stand out, along with some great other agencies such as Lean Mean Fighting Machine, Agency Republic and AIS London, is their consistent uniqueness (for want of a better phrase!) Having worked on these awards forfour years now, we’ve certainly noticed that some agencies have tended to adopt an ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ kind of approach to their creativity. This may work perfectly well if you have a client that’s happy to see pretty much the same campaign over and over again, but with a different strapline. But what the bulk of this year’s winning campaigns have proven – including Orange and Poke’s beautiful online balloon race, which was awarded ‘Best Creative Campaign 2008’ – is that great digital work doesn’t need to follow a strict formula, and technology allows each campaign to be drastically different to the last. In fact,I think you can definitely tell from the final execution, which agencies get most excited about a brief.
Last night’s guest speaker, Alex Evans – one of the main men responsible for creating the PS3 game ‘Little Big Planet’ – was a real inspiration, because to see someone quite so passionate about creating something pretty and fun that consumers enjoy is incredibly refreshing. He talked about the importance of the creative process, and that it’s essential that once you start creating that you invest your personality into it, because then you really care about the end result. For him, this is why UGC and consumer interaction is so fundamental to success, because once people have created with you, or for you –even if it’s leaving a comment on a blog –then you’ve pretty much got them hooked. With few exceptions, that is what’sdriven thosestand-out, respected andjealousy-inspiring campaigns that 2008 has seen. Roll on next year!

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