Who cares about net neutrality?

On July 12th a long list of internet companies participated in a “Day of Action” in support of net neutrality.

net neu·tral·i·ty
  1. the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Why it’s hot: Net neutrality can and will change the internet as we know it, in radical ways, especially for us as marketers. Imagine a world where suddenly putting content or advertising on the internet is as expensive as running a prime time broadcast ad. Or where potential customers find our content organically, but then can’t engage with it because they don’t have the right level of internet access from their provider. For more on how it could affect marketers and advertisers, check out this article. But no article or infographic has hit me harder or explained the implications better than this simple Instagram post by Reddit:

What happens when we can’t agree on reality? (Or overcoming implicit bias and the echo chamber phenomenon)

Keeping it light this week (sort of?). It’s always a fight to remain objective when distilling research and data into the insights that become the foundation of our strategies. Here are a few food for thought resources that might make for some good holiday weekend reading & listening!

https://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/ (premise explained here: http://www.npr.org/2017/06/29/534916052/change-my-view-on-reddit-helps-people-challenge-their-own-opinions)



A Small Lesson in Listening and Content Strategy

Sometimes repurposing an asset for social isn’t as cut and dried as a quick video edit. 

Care.com, a website for sourcing home help like childcare, senior care, housekeeping and pet care, ran a video ad on Facebook. To the audience they served it to [twice] it came off tone deaf. It’s a Facebook spec-friendly version of a longer length commercial. The captions that appear over the video read, “Look at Mom and Dad. Cleaning the house on a Saturday, instead of playing with me.”


What did they do wrong?

  • The ad appears to tactlessly leverage a pouty, sad little girl to guilt parents into hiring a housekeeper. Does guilt really inspire action and create a positive brand connection? It’s a risky gamble, especially in social.
  • The Facebook edit fails to consider how the content comes off without the context of of the longer-form commercial. Repurpose with care.
  • They ran the same ad before, and got the same response. Then changed nothing, and ran it again (without responding to community comments). Maybe they targeted the wrong people?
  • The ad goes against the advice and values they push in their own web contentas directly pointed out by viewers of the ad. 
  • There’s also a typo. Oops.

Why it’s hot: It’s not that hot, but I saw this ad twice and it bugged me enough to keep me thinking about it. It annoyed me as a parent, sure. But it annoyed me more as a content strategist. Not sure how much was spent on this, but the investment could have had way more impact and positive feedback.

Alamo Drafthouse’s Sense of Humor in the Face of “Controversy”

[Reposted from previous week]

Original story: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/28/530490073/some-men-are-not-happy-about-a-women-only-screening-of-wonder-woman

Alamo Drafthouse is a movie chain known for off-the-wall screenings: for a horror movie, they handed out gas masks and drove moviegoers into the woods on a school bus. It screened Pirates of the Carribean on a boat, etc. When they announced an all-female screening of the new Wonder Woman film, “it didn’t sound all that edgy,” reports NPR. But some took offense.

Why it’s hot: Alamo’s handling of what would have been a PR and social media crisis for so many other brands was fantastic. They took the complaints in stride, having the guts to respond to trolls and complaining patrons in a way that retained their values and reinforced their brand. They even scheduled a second women-only screening. That takes some balls. And they were rewarded for it, with tons of praise from their social media followers.

Google’s New AI Tool is a Pandora’s Box of Possibilities

It’s a simple idea: turn a selfie into cartoon character stickers (emojis) of yourself. Google’s new Allo app, touted by the company as a “smart messaging app” that lets you “express yourself better” includes this new AI feature that uses your smartphone camera and facial recognition technology to generate detailed facial expressions to suit every emotion. According to Fast Co, Google thinks there are 563 quadrillion faces that the tool could generate.

“Illustrations let you bring emotional states in a way that selfies can’t.” Selfies are, by definition, idealizations of yourself. Emoji, by contrast, are distillations and exaggerations of how you feel. To that end, the emoji themselves are often hilarious: You can pick one of yourself as a slice of pizza, or a drooling zombie. “The goal isn’t accuracy,” explains Cornwell. “It’s to let someone create something that feels like themselves, to themselves.” 

Full article here

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s another layer on personalization in social media and messaging apps that Snapchat and Instagram will look to integrate. It could also mean the end of Bitmoji as we know it.
  • On a deeper level, there could be many applications outside of entertainment for this type of technology. If you can use AI to better express how you feel to a doctor or nurse, for example, a whole new world of communication could be opened up.
  • And going broader, there’s a big question: as messaging apps get smarter and smarter, do our interactions through them become more or less valuable? When AI is the go-between, are we better expressing ourselves, or is it a substitute for real interaction?

Kids design the darndest things

Co-designing with kids yields gamified, engaging, and actually useful stuff. Who knew? The article provides an overview of the concept of co-design – designers partnering with users (this is not testing but actually being part of the design process) and what the outcomes can be.



Why it’s hot: Thinking about strategy and design the way a kid would can help us get to a simpler truth.

A new kind of pod

Not a new take on the iPod or a hot podcast – “Instagram pods” are a growing trend among social influencers. A pod is a group of Instagrammers who use the platform’s messaging feature to join together to like and comment on each other’s posts. The goal is to create enough engagement to boost their content, getting it to show up in the feeds of people who follow them.

Instagram’s algorithm sparked this behavior when in 2016 the Instagram feed began displaying popular posts and posts from followers that account holders engaged with the most, instead of showing images posted in a timeline (most recent at the top).

What it means: When working with influencers – especially individuals – we need to understand how they promote content on their end, and factor this in to any numbers we report on and use to make marketing decisions. If it looks like a piece of content is getting great engagement, we need to be diligent about understanding where that engagement is coming from. Otherwise, our data is flawed. This also factors in when selecting influencers to work with in the first place – it’s important to understand their engagement strategy and where there likes and comments are coming from.

Why it’s hot: Another day, another algorithm to game. Insta pods highlight the ever-changing nature of digital media and emphasize our need – and our client’s need – to be nimble, transparent and as free from fraud as possible.

Opportunistic Content 101: Toys R Us Giraffe Cam

“April the Giraffe” – a wildlife park’s pregnant giraffe, April, is set to give birth any day now, and the internet is watching. Toys R Us has capitalized on all the eyeballs by sponsoring the zoo’s live feed of April. The buzz has come in the form of genuine excitement and anticipation as well as conspiracy theories.


Why it’s hot: Toys R Us saw the simplest of opportunities – a basic sponsorship getting their brand name and logo in front of hundreds of thousands of people who likely fit within their target demo – and seized on it quickly, having to do little more than pony up the cash to support the zoo. It remains to be seen if the whole thing is truly organic, or if it’s a PR stunt orchestrated by Toys R Us, the zoo, and/or Doubletree Hotels whose local franchise has also placed advertising on the giraffe’s dedicated landing page.

FOMO by Design

Snapchat: The messaging app worth over 20 billion dollars that “hijacks” our minds and changes the way we talk to one another. WNYC’s podcast, “Note to Self” recently featured the app in a conversation about compulsive user behavior and how apps like Snapchat exploit these behaviors, for better or worse.

Why it’s hot: For us as strategists, the podcast scratches the surface of what’s made Snapchat so very sticky – its deft exploitation of our innate fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s not a platform obsessed with followers, likes or favorites, because only the content creator can see who viewed their snaps. It’s all about making content that lacks permanence – once you miss it, it’s gone, forever. This is a learning we can apply to all content, platform agnostic. Content must be experiential, not merely informative or entertaining. The meaning is in being “part” of it. If you weren’t there, you missed that connection.

In the bigger picture, there are emerging thought leaders in Silicon Valley who are continuing to question and build a case for considering ethics when it comes to how digital experiences are designed.The podcast juxtaposes commentary like this quote from Netflix’s CEO – “Our biggest competitors are Facebook, YouTube, and sleep” – with the need for some form of ethical standard bearers in the industry to keep a watchful eye on how apps and content tap into and take advantage of human vulnerability, considering how far is too far. This hints at what the future of social platforms may look like, as “design ethics” proponents wonder how much we’d pay for a version of Facebook built entirely around helping us spend our time well – by our own definition – vs. simply passing that time with distractions.

Watson’s First Sculpture

IBM’s Watson cultivated findings that allowed Softlab to create a piece of art based on computer analysis of thousands of architect Anthoni Gaudi’s buildings, along with the input of text documents about the architect, Barcelona’s history and culture, and song lyrics.The output was a modernist sculpture that responded to real-time social analytics that kept the pulse of what people at the conference were talking about on Twitter. As topics and emotions cropped up, changed, and peaked, the sculpture responded.

IBM Watson Created a Modern Sculpture Inspired by the Work of One of Spain’s Most Famous Architects

From the article: “I think from our perspective, definitely in the design process itself, one of the things that Softlab talked about was that a designer or expert can look at an image, and they can make inferences,” Arn said. “But there were things that came out of the analysis that we did that they really had not considered.”

Why it’s hot: In the article, Jeff Arn of IBm said of the sculpture “in this case, it’s a very abstract example. But you can imagine […] a social media manager for a retail brand can ask, ‘What does our audience think of us, or how are they reacting to a particular comment?’ … It kind of gets you a lot more understanding of who your audience could be based on traits given to you by the way they write on a medium.” While we are maybe reluctant to concede that machines may be smarter than us, we should at least acknowledge their utility in noticing the things we can’t see due to our own cognitive limitations or biases. As marketers we’re trying to understand the nuances of who we’re talking to by creating personas and doing consumer research – this is a glimpse into what the future of that will look like!

Taking Email Seriously

Email often gets pushed to the bottom of the marketing priority list because it’s historically un-sexy, but opt-in email lists represent scores of people literally asking for a brand’s content. The possibilities for email creative have been quietly advancing, with brands coming up with creative ways to get around inbox fatigue and filters and incorporate media content (such as animated gifs).

Email is also a data collection point, allowing for segmentation and ongoing a/b testing and optimization with a relatively consistent audience. As automation gets more and more sophisticated, brands can do more with less resources, setting up trigger emails that target customers when they’re most engaged and in-the-moment.

Why it’s hot: Email is still a relevant and impactful component of a successful customer engagement strategy. Getting potential customers to sign up for email captures valuable lead data while offering a one-to-one, opted-in communication channel.

What “New Journalism” Means for Brand Content

The New York Times recently published internally, but also publicly, their mandate for a new approach to digital journalism. There are some exciting goals expressed for the publication that support what we already know as marketers, strategists and social media specialists – quality over quantity; use of more engaging and experiential digital content formats and visuals; and a clear need for social integration and audience participation with real-time reward.

To see where they are headed, check out https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html [warning: graphic content]. The full 2020 report is here.

Why It’s Hot: A huge publisher like the Times acknowledging so forcefully this “new” reality of storytelling – rich photography and immersive design, integration of tech (like Google Maps), making UGC part of the story – is important as this will become the way more and more people expect to get their content from all publishers, including brands – especially as more and more people around the world gain access to the technology and networks needed to support the dissemination of this rich experiential content.

You may have also noticed that Medium is expressing something of a manifesto lately across their social media channels. Interesting to consider the way media is adapting and changing as we look to both work with publishers and capture their audiences for our brands. https://www.instagram.com/medium/