Augmented reality is 'a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.'
The promo for a B movie to be shown in Australia overlays a storm sequence over the live events happening on the street in real time. It's a clever, promotional gimmick and would be highly entertaining in itself for people passing by.
Augmented reality can also be a useful utility. One of our clients, Frogs In New Zealand - an inbound tourism operator for visitors to New Zealand who speak French - have incorporated it into their guide app - when you are travelling you can can view a scene and see pinpointed places with insider information including offers and deals unique to Frogs.
The limitation of these kinds of applications really comes down to numbers. In the case of the storm promotion the concept works in the context of the street scene. It works because it is specific. The twister races towards the viewer on the street and, for moment their brains are scrambled - the real and imaginary elements are brought together convincingly. The flinch or jump back when the car flies towards them. So, from a promotional point of view, if you'll pardon the pun, its efficacy depends on the number of people passing by, divided by the number of people who pause to look and - it would seem, divided by the number of rainy days in Melbourne during the run of the film/advertising (far be it from me to disparage the weather in Melbourne - but the song Four Seasons In One Day was written about the place) - so to gain maximum effect, for the ad to be really good, the weather has to be really bad.
Offset the numbers with the cost of development, presumably the elements have to be customised to every location - so you get big potential impact but at a relatively high production cost per view.
Augmented reality is a versatile technique and it will only become more pervasive. Large scale, fixed events like the movie promotion have their place but the (un)real action will occur on smart phones and devices. The opportunities are literally mind boggling but, like most issues relating to digital technology their application should aim for scale - proliferation of devices and cheap/free distribution through app marketplaces mean a wider potential audience to offset the costs.
As a footnote, the use of 'ambient' techniques by marketers has been a trend for some time now. Often the companion video like the one I've used in this post is all anyone will ever see of the campaign. Of course, we are not the ultimate audience. judging panels at advertising awards are - hence the over-investment in production for an idea with limited media exposure.
Of course the other markets are video platforms - the persistent, vainglorious hope that a clip will go 'viral' and news media - if television news picks up a story as a tail-end filler its value can be higher than the marketer spends on the promo.
Take care though. News producers are becoming more jaded - to the extent of colluding with marketers and ad agencies directly to manufacture 'news' stunts like the famous driving dogs for New Zealand's SPCA.
Life just gets more complicated, doesn't it?
Sagmeister is a well known graphic designer - maybe best known for his work designing material for the music industry. It is quite possible that he may, ultimately, be remembered for this interview in which he responds to the craze for people in marketing to describe themselves as 'storytellers'.
“Recently, I read an interview with someone who designs roller coasters, and he refers to himself as a storyteller. No, f—head, you are not a storyteller, you are a roller coaster designer, and that is fantastic!”
It's an interesting point. We do tell stories in marketing, but it is marketing, not storytelling. Some years ago my partners in a venture and I registered BrandStory as a trademark. I think it lapsed, but that was nearly 20 years ago. Industry luminaries like Mike Hutcheson from Image Centre has riffed on the theme for years too - Mike is an epic storyteller in person and in print.
With the emergence of content marketing the storytelling trope has been reanimated. It's a bit like being a hipster though. If you have to tell people you're a hipster…you get my drift, I'm sure.
Hear more from Stefan Sagmeister in his TED Talk
John Oliver has a a news and satire show Last Week Tonight on HBO that follows on from his popular segments on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. In this piece he asks some interesting questions and makes some valid points about 'native advertising' - ads that are camouflaged as editorial content. It is a practice that is becoming more common. Partly because people don't want to pay for their content (any more than they every did). So news gathering and reporting outlets are having to compromise to pay the bills and compete with newcomers like BuzzFeed that have no tradition of journalistic integrity or independence to preserve.
Oliver is unflinching. As he points out he can afford to be. HBO is a subscriber funded channel - so brands who want to reach their audience have to do it in other ways (like product placement in their shows - which isn't discussed in this item).
The point that is most important is whether consumers will, ultimately, backlash against this kind of subversion. Oliver's barb that 'deer aren't stupid' is a reference to this. Nothing spoils trust more than the realisation that you have been cheated or played for a fool.
I make my living from advertising but I realise it is a lot like fishing. If you treat your resource with disrespect then the catch will collapse. I've always felt that it is important that there is balance in the transaction between brand and consumer. If an ad has hyperbole to make an extravagant point then it should obviously be hypebole - not just some crazy claim. pretending to be a fact. When 'native' ads or content marketing are used to promote products where the facts are either sketchy or 'repurposed bovine waste' then nobody wins. Consumers will not only turn their backs on the advertiser and the media brand that provided cover and violated the trust that they have earned with the consumer - via a reputation for quality news and information - but they will also turn to social media (their own channels) to spread the word.
There has to be genuine value offered and received by brands who want to enter this space. Done well and transparently then everyone will be happy. Covert, creepy invasion is never a good way to start or maintain a relationship.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Last Week Tonight Website
Here it is - your Friday Frolic.
The first ad agency I ever worked for was called Brown Christensen & Associates. Pretty much forgotten now. But in their day they were an important independently owned kiwi firm. They famously introduced Coruba to New Zealand and made it a best seller - and New Zealand the only country in the entire world that preferred dark rum to white rum.
I joined as a production assistant - doing analog work that doesn't exist today: filing and retrieving transparencies, making bromides for finished artists to paste down onto layouts, marking up type, checking galleys…it might as well all be in Anglo Saxon…meaningless in the digital era. I finagled my way into the creative department by teaching myself to render and by leaving my layouts out in plain site of the principals of the company.
Brown Chris were a plum that was riope for the picking - we served clients like Amex, Panasonic/National/Technics, Fisher & Paykel, NZ WInes and Spirits…DDB came knocking and bought the agency. As part of the indoctrination there was a copy of a book called Remember Those Great VW Ads. Brown Chris were bought and I was sold. I still have the book somewhere - I read it over and over, copying the writing style.
The presentation I've put together is the fist time I've used SlideShare as a maker, rather than a consumer. Thought I'd translate the classic parody by Fred Marley and Hal Riney that I used to share with my advertising students at Massey University school of design. Study it carefully. And remember it next time you just want to add a little tweak or apply some cockamamy rule or convention to a product or an idea.
I was in the supermarket the other day. The checkout lines were long, so I stopped to flip through some of the magazine titles. I eschew the usual suspects, looking for something new and interesting, something outside of my usual fare - which might include Vanity Fair, Metro Magazine or Esquire - all can be wordy and a little worthy but they have some visual panache as well. I noticed Porter magazine. 'Curious name…' I thought, then the italicised 'e' gave the game away. It is a publication from the website Net-a-porter.com where fashionistas can drool over the latest pret a porter fashion and spend their next paycheck before it is depositied. (Staying ahead of the game.)
The magazine is very good. It is not only a terrific representation of the online retail experience of the brand and it could shock publishers like Hearst and Condé Nast into wondering whether they need to move further into commerce - selling the goods they curate and feature directly to their customer base.
Net-a-Porter illustrates the fusion that's happening across industries - publishing, services, retail - pretty much any sector. I also serves to illustrate how the 'what' of marketing is being subsumed by the how - the user experience - being the definitive purpose of business.
We used to ask the marketing 1.01 question 'what business are you in? Now it's almost useless to respond with 'making great shoes' or even 'making great ads'…it's making great connections with users at every point they intersect and interact with your brand. You might make shoes today but find that's just cobblers in the near future when customers clamour for glamourous insider information about walking the great cities of the world…who knows?
And just to seal their position amongst A-List media Porter magazine enrolled Lady Gaga in the fine piece of content marketing above. You can't stand still in fashion. Come to think of it - you can't stand still in contemporary marketing.
By the way - content marketing isn't trying to hard-sell products in formats where duration doesn't matter. I'll talk more about content in coming posts. 'Like' on Facebook to stay posted. Better yet - join the mailing list. We were going to distribute an email newsletter but I think we'll go straight to a paper and ink magazine for subscribers - published every now and them. Sign up here.
For die hards - here's an interview with the team behind Porter created by the Business of Fashion site
Over the past couple of years cosmetics companies have been making a bid to be seen as purveyors of 'true beauty' as a way of manufacturing a point of difference for their brands.
This campaign for the specialist make-up brand Dermablend makes no apology for concealing the model's flaws.
The ads are classic demonstrations of the product in use. By wiping away the cover the people in the ads communicate how effectively the product allows them to engage in everyday life without enduring the problems associated with being different - make-up as camouflage.
Where the subtle shift takes is in how the brand leverages the meme that cosmetics can somehow make you 'better' and the equal and opposite meme - you are perfect the way you are. In this case both are paradoxically true and false.
Can you be better by becoming someone else? If you have a flaw that you feel you need to conceal, are you inherently rejecting the true you?
Most of us want to 'fit in'. There's no real difference between using cosmetics or prosthetic teeth - or wearing a suit to work at the bank when you're a rock star in the making at the weekend. In our culture we have the choice if we can afford it.
Dermablend encourage people who use their product to submit their own 'camo confession' as part of their push to find a place in the cosmetics conversation that is something other than 'vanity'.
The model in the commercial (above) is Cassandra Bankson, whose beauty tutorials are an internet sensation in their own right
Slightly Tangenital - but related.
This ad for a feminine hygiene product (Indonesian) offers the promise of hygiene on the go - presumably on a night out (though I might be projecting an interpretation from my own psyche onto some thing completely innocent).
There seems no end of douche-bag products designed to make women feel bad about themselves and their bodies.
I have a feeling this ad was probably never placed in Indonesian media - it was featured on the Ads of the World website.
What do you think?:
Are women's insecurities targeted more by marketers?
What other examples do yo know of?
Little and Friday are a café, bakery, kitchen, takeout, publishers…builders of culinary empire.
Dropped into their operation in an innocuous Belmont back street (near Takapuna, Auckland). Busy with customers, cooks, bakers, barristas and servers all going about their business, delighting customers with delicious looking food, didn't sample today.
In their storefront office (open to the street) I noticed the week's to-do list - prominently including their content management calendar.
It's a fact of life that social media and blogging platforms are free but they take commitment and organisation to keep them interesting and lively.
Building an audience for your ideas and news is all well and good - but they can be a demanding lot and easily distracted. There's no shortage of choice for attention.
If a bustling little café can make time to plan - you can too. In fact it's essential.
Little and Friday site
Tell us about any small businesses you know are doing big things with social media and content.
Seems as though everybody is talking about 'content marketing'. It's one of those topics that really depend on who is talking to figure out what they mean. Some ad agency talk content up because - well because that's what other people are talking up. Who doesn't want to be on trend? (For the record, ads, even long ones that simply push products, aren't content marketing. They're ads.)
Here's the thing about content marketing - it's not what you say - it's what you do that counts. I stumbled across this exercise via Shutterstock - who do an excellent job of developing interesting, useful stuff that is relevant to their customers - they add value to the experience of interacting with the Shutterstock brand and its products. I guess they are marketing with content.
The following is based on a live workshop programme the company ran. It looks like an interesting way to bump start your thinking. Give it an hour to give it a whirl and let me know what kind of results you get.
Step 1: Find your product "truth"
What problem does your product solve? What opportunity does it provide? When do people use it? When do they regret not having it?
On provided Post-its, each team member writes 10 initial strategic or creative thought-starters for one specific business goal. (10 minutes)
Step 2: Find your topic
What pop-culture or other interest does your core audience gravitate toward? How can that relate to your brand?
On provided Post-its, brainstorm at least 10 trending topics or activities that a large portion of your audience watches, reads, listens to, plays, etc., for fun or leisure. (10 minutes)
Step 3: Mash It Up
As a group, brainstorm "what if" scenarios, mashing up your product/brand with a trending topic. (20 Minutes)
Step 4: Sell It
Figure out the format and an irresistible headline to sum it all up. Is this a video, a poster series, an installation, a mini game, or something else?
Draw or storyboard your idea and write the irresistible tweet or article headline that would make the target audience immediately click through. (20 Minutes)
Visit the Shutterstock Zeitgeist part of their site - it's really interesting and useful.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.