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Nov 2010

How far can advertising be taken?

Posted in Advertising | 0 Comments

Today, pinging around the web, I came across a rather interesting little beta. AdKeeper is a little tool that places a small button on every banner ad in your browser. Using the tool allows you to scrapbook banner ads to look at later.

This is an odd concept, and not just because most banner ads you see are either for terrible action-adventure films with budgets bigger than the brains behind the cameras, or the predictably testosterone-fuelled ads for MMORPGs full of scantily-clad women. But there are a genuine few that are fantastic, like the ones that offer little minigames, or ones that have smart advertising copy you might want to take as inspiration for some work you’re doing on a similar project.

I like the idea of keeping my favourite adverts. A long time ago, there was an advert for the Volkswagen Golf that blew my mind. It was a remix, visually and musically, of Gene Kelly’s signature scene from Singing in the Rain, with a street/breakdancing twist. It was one of the most creative uses of music in advertising I’ve ever seen and the remixed song went on to do fairly well, too. But I couldn’t scrapbook it, and of course finding an upload of that ad before the true rise of YouTube was a bit of a nightmare.

But scrapbooking banner ads raises an interesting question: are we really choosing examples of design that we enjoy, or are we, as happy little consumers, enjoying the brief flutter of excitement we get from seeing our favourite advert? Think about how many people would see year-old adverts if they saved the banner! It’s an endless supply of advertising well after the company sells the ad space, and it’s being done by willing consumers who don’t even notice. Genius, when you think about it, as you get to save your favourite ad and the company gets to show you it every time you go to take another peek at the thing.

The other odd thing I saw this morning was the fact that the Chilean miners were each given a pair of sunglasses on their exit. This I knew already, having avidly followed the event myself. But what I didn’t know was that they were Oakley sunglasses. So, for the cost of 35 pairs (at a value of $6300) of glasses and a little shipping charge, they got $41 million’s worth of exposure. Outrageous, say some, but truly, you’ve got to admire it. It was possibly the most subtle use of advertising anyone’s ever seen, and they got away with it save for those who wrote about it on smaller blogs.

I’d love to see that happen in other places, because if you work in Oakley’s marketing department and you weren’t high-fiving each other by that point, you should have done. Of course, American Idol has barely-censored Coca-Cola glasses, almost every American television drama contains a Blackberry (Grey’s Anatomy), a Macbook (Dexter) or Smirnoff Vodka (Mad Men) and we’re forgetting the epic amounts of brand names every time we walk or film outdoors. But to do it on national news sets a new, ever-so-slightly chilling precedent, that these miners probably knew nothing about the brand of the glasses, but just put them on to preserve their sight.

It’s manipulative, of course it is, but at the same time I doubt they were complaining when they were given a shedload of other gifts, though in reality their true reward was to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors and know that they could spend time with their families again – and, I’d imagine, quit their job at the mine. Not all of them will ever fully recover, but the world took care of them and it was an amazing coup by Chile as it was possibly the best possible advert for their goverment’s nice side.

Whether you’re clipping Hyundai banners or checking out Oakley sunglasses after watching the news, advertising’s control on you simply depends on how you respond to it. If you accept the product and move on, you’re in control, even if you keep the ad because it was cool. You live in a world of unprecedented choice, and all you’ve got to do is shop around for the stuff you like. Advertising is now offering us little products live on Sky News, CNN and the BBC. Now if they can work a Macbook into the recent Wikileaks success story, Steve Jobs will have officially won the internet.

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Jun 2010

Email is dead

Posted in News, Social Media | 0 Comments

Is email really destined for deleted folder/recycle bin?

Email is on its way out, that is according to Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. She made this controversial statement to what must been a flabbergasted audience at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference, but what truth is there in the statement?

Taking tips from teenagers

According to Sandberg: “If you want to know what people like us will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today”. She says that only 11% of teens email daily and so in the near future no one will use it at all. She believes that people are turning to SMS, Twitter and other social networks, mainly hers, to communicate.

“E-mail–I can’t imagine life without it–is probably going away,” she said.

But can this really be the case or is she over hyping her own product? It is obvious that teenagers don’t use email. Why would they if all their friends are on Facebook and they can communicate quickly and easily with pictures, videos or whatever they want really.

Email is open to all

For a business however, it is rather different. The difference between email and social networks is that email is open to everyone, you can send an email from one account to a completely different one, ie from a Hotmail account to a self-hosted email. Whereas you need to be a member of Facebook or Twitter to communicate with other people on them.

Let’s say email suddenly disappeared tomorrow, it would have to be replaced with an open, business-focussed social networking site, which any business could join to gain access to each other. I suppose something like Linkedin, but on a much bigger scale. I can’t really see that happening any time soon.

The advantages of networks

Of course, social networks are ideal for certain businesses and perhaps a better way to communicate than email is. With email you actually have to know someone’s email address, unlike with Facebook. Although you do have to be a member of the network, but there are huge numbers of users once you have signed up. As Sandberg said in her presentation, Facebook has 400 million members, 100 million of which are daily mobile users, she puts this in perspective for us by saying:

“ On any given day, you can reach twice as many people in the U.S. as watch American Idol–and that only makes up 30% of our global audience.”

Sheryl Sandberg

So for a business social networks might offer communicate opportunities. Sandberg cited a study that people who receive product recommendations from their friends are 400% more likely to buy it. What Facebook has is a ‘like’ feature. If you like something you click that and let all your friends know. The same study reiterated this point that friend-recommended products have 68% better product recognition and 200% greater recollection of brand messaging.

What future for email

But for more complicated issues within the workplace, like contracts, bills and in depth discussions, Facebook just won’t cut it. It also comes down to the appropriateness of the situation, are you really going to discuss someone’s will with them over a social network?

It is hard for us now to imagine now a life without email, it is such a big part of our lives. Even as a teenager I used email, but then again Facebook wasn’t around then. And now? I think Facebook is my biggest port for communication, I do email a few friends but only because I have their address. So maybe Sandberg has a point?

And remember how years ago everyone wore watches, it was as natural as putting on underwear. Look around your office now, how many people are wearing watches? I can’t see one person , we all just use our computer or mobiles, so things do change.

Facebook is predicting the death of email by using a demographic of non-users, is this possible? You never know, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here is a clip of Sandberg at the conference:

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