On Facebook, usage is way up but ad spend is down

According to Facebook, over the last few weeks, it’s seen:

  • Total messaging increases of more than 50%, across both WhatsApp and Messenger
  • An increase of 70% in Messenger group video calls, and more than double the regular demand for video calls in WhatsApp
  • Overall U.S. traffic from Facebook to other websites has increased by more than 50% week-on-week

But while engagement is up, ad spending is down as brands cancel campaigns, put temporary holds on media spending, or pivot to other channels, according to Social Media Today.

Why it’s hot: Coronavirus news has dominated the headlines and many social feeds, but conversation and engagement on social platforms goes well beyond sharing news. Entertainers, parents and others have found ways to use social media features to their advantage, hosting live comedy events, performing music, and reading books to kids stuck at home during the lockdown. Brands should take note of all the creativity happening out there, and use this opportunity to try out new forms of authentic communication that may adapt to support a paid social strategy made for the post-pandemic landscape.

The Meeker Report

Image from Medium.com

Every year, venture capitalist Mary Meeker releases a lengthy report on the state of digital marketing. Grab the full report and access an archive  here: https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/#view/1

Summary from Medium here, and some 2019 highlights via Recode:

  • E-commerce is now 15 percent of retail sales. Its growth has slowed — up 12.4 percent in Q1 compared with a year earlier — but still towers over growth in regular retail, which was just 2 percent in Q1.

  • Internet ad spending accelerated in the US, up 22 percent in 2018. Most of the spending is still on Google and Facebook, but companies like Amazon and Twitter are getting a growing share. Some 62 percent of all digital display ad buying is for programmatic ads, which will continue to grow.

  • Customer acquisition costs — the marketing spending necessary to attract each new customer — is going up. That’s unsustainable because in some cases it surpasses the long-term revenue those customers will bring. Meeker suggests cheaper ways to acquire customers, like free trials and unpaid tiers.

  • Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.

  • The number of interactive gamers worldwide grew 6 percent to 2.4 billion people last year, as interactive games like Fortnite become the new social media for certain people. The number of people who watch those games — rather than participate — is swelling, too.

  • Health care is steadily becoming more digitized. Expect more telemedicine and on-demand consultations.

Regarding the rising cost of customer acquisition in particular, the report cites the effectiveness of free trials or “freemium” tiers of service that can effectively get new customers in the door and convert to loyal subscriptions or users. The other driver highlighted was recommendations – the ability to deliver personalized, curated products and content to potential customers, a la personal stylist companies like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club.

Why it’s hot: It’s worth a read as it’s often a source of intelligence on the client-side, and may help to explain why certain topics of conversation suddenly seem to be cropping up in client interactions. It may help you uncover some blind spots during planning and is a good starting point for hypothesizing with data.

Online therapy gaining traction

From Bustle:

In recent years, websites and apps that offer remote access to trained therapists have risen in popularity. The convenience of communicating with a therapist via smartphone and the relatively low cost are some of the drivers behind why people use these services; even the American Psychological Association recognizes online therapy as a resource on its site. Well-known platforms include BetterHelp, which matches users with an online counselor they can communicate with live via text, phone, or video starting at $40 a week, and Talkspace, which allows the exchange of text, audio, and video messages with a therapist beginning at $49 a week. Other platforms include MyTherapist and telehealth services available through employee assistance programs (EAPs). While these apps and services aren’t replacements for traditional face-to-face therapy, as the respective FAQs for BetterHelpTalkspace, and MyTherapist note, these platforms can help users get more familiar with their mental health.

Ashley Batz/Bustle

See this additional article in The Guardian for more. 

Why it’s hot: Patients say that therapy apps have been a cost effective way for them to gain judgement-free access to mental health care that they otherwise may not have even pursued, lowering the barrier to entry to address extremely common but often ignored issues. The convenience factor also plays a big role, as patients don’t have to worry about scheduling or getting to appointments, and can receive on-demand therapy when they need it – to cope with a loss, for example – or ongoing therapy for chronic mental health disorders like anxiety.

Influencer caught in college admissions investigation

News broke this week of a vast college admissions cheating scheme in which wealthy parents paid hundreds of thousands to get their kids into elite universities by falsifying documents and test scores with the help and cooperation of coaches, and college and test administrators. Olivia Jade, daughter of actress Lori Loughlin (Full House), beauty and lifestyle influencer to 3 million followers across Instagram and YouTube was one of the beneficiaries, and now her Instagram account is under fire.


Why it’s hot: Reminds us that a potential brand crisis can come from the most unexpected places. Brands that have worked with Olivia Jade include Sephora, Amazon and Tres Semme, though it’s likely they’ll be blameless here. Sheds light on the tangled web of personal + private that comes with the mainstream macro influencer.

“Don’t feed the trolls,” but maybe…

A new piece from The Verge questions whether our approach to trolls online has been wrong all along. The article makes a convincing argument: by refusing to engage with trolling behavior, are we as brands and people doing the internet and society at large a huge disservice?

It all harkens back to Cliff Pervocracy’s analogy of the “missing stair,” where everyone works around the obvious dangers of a situation because they are so used to “dealing with it” by outright ignoring it. If someone speaks up about the danger, they are dismissed. Why complain when you can “just hop over” the missing stair? But on a systemic level, it all adds up to something so much more than a mere missing stair. For many people on the internet — especially women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community — it is an entire broken staircase, full of loose nails, jutting floorboards, and impossible leaps. And there are so many others who don’t notice it because they either get to use the elevator or are already on the top floor.

Not only does this sort of ignorance function as a kind of tacit permission, but it also ignores the inherent threat of the troll’s true intent. What the troll, the stalker, and the abuser really want out of the situation is to feel powerful and in control. And they will not stop until they feel it. Therein lies the most horrible aspect of the “don’t feed” mantra: rather than doing anything to address the trolls, the more tangible effect is to silence the victim and the reality of their abuse, or worse, to blame them for it. For far too many who promoted this idea, the true goal was silence, to avoid facing what is happening and the impossible responsibility of it.

Of course, there are the one-offs that do simply go away when ignored. But the big picture is complex and worrisome. Although brands and companies play a small role, there’s clearly a continuing need to set and enforce boundaries about what conduct is acceptable and what is not.

The powers that be in social media can’t just make it about who is saying bad words, try to algorithm their way out of the problem, or play every side in the name of “fairness” when it leaves so many of us to the wolves. They have to make an ethical choice about what they really believe and what ideology they want to represent moving forward. Because they cannot reap the reward of what they have built without taking on the responsibility and the cost of it, too.

Why it’s hot: We talk a lot about brands and their values. Those values need to translate to social media policies and general online rules of engagement wherever these brands have presence. “Don’t feel the trolls” as a blanket statement may dismiss winning opportunities to stand for something.

Think you’re safe from Facebook’s political ad disclosure requirement?

…think again, because P&G and Walmart both had ads cancelled by the platform recently because they included vaguely political messages. (Walmart’s ad, for the record, was allowed to run after review. But P&G’s LGBT+ ad was held to the disclosure policy requirements, meaning the brand has to share a “paid for by” message. http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-hits-walmart-p-g-political-ads-warning/314083/

From Ad Age: “The political ad policy has raised concerns among publishers and media companies that pay to promote their headlines on Facebook. They argue that the required labeling and archiving will make Facebook users confuse their journalism with advocacy.

But it was just a matter of time before consumer goods, retail and auto brands got caught in Facebook’s political net, too.

“Brands can easily get snagged in the political content filter,” says a publishing executive, speaking on condition of anonymity to express opposition to Facebook’s new rules. “Almost everything is controversial.”

Here’s are some more resources to help in better understanding Facebook’s rules and how to mitigate risk:

Why it’s hot: It’s likely that this is just an initial posturing tactic from the platform to let brands and political campaign advertisers know they’re serious about enforcing the new rules, but we need to be aware of the risks and how to prevent crossing Facebook’s thin “political” line  in the meantime..


Preying on Facebook Groups

Thanks to a confluence of rising rates of opioid addiction and the availability of insurance dollars for rehabilitation service, vulnerable people affected by addiction are increasingly being targeted with misleading marketing communications, making disingenuous claims and failing to disclose ties to for-profit addiction centers. In particular, members of Facebook groups are being directly contacted by marketers looking to pull them into these treatment centers. Marketers are compensated with anything from a flat pay rate to bonuses attributed to the number and quality of patient referrals.

Rehab marketing has been under scrutiny in various ways for making false and misleading claims targeting vulnerable individuals, but the infiltration of Facebook Groups takes the shady to a whole new level. Marketing scams used by unethical treatment centers involve private messaging group members in an attempt to get a client to their treatment center, absent of any clinical consultation or assessment.

This article from The Verge dives into detail around one such group, Affected by Addiction.

Marketers from the treatment center had to approve every post in the group, which gave them the first opportunity to privately message good candidates for their rehab and try to talk them into going to Windward in California.

Why it’s hot: If it continues, what impact will this bad apple behavior will mean for the future of Facebook Groups, a community-builder that Zuckerberg has been all-in on? (Communities seemed to be one of the saving graces of the platform during all the #deleteFacebook convesration). Will this and similar activity happening in other communities cause people to further lose trust in Facebook? Will they leave en masse (in favor of darker dark social) or again change how they use the tools? If it continues unabated and has negative impact on user engagement, there could be significant ripple effects felt by brands who rely on Facebook Groups for social listening insights as people move to experiences that are more difficult to monitor or maintain.

Choosing sides in the era of hashtag activism

It’s not new, but the trend is growing – brands are increasingly being held to account for their ties to politicians, celebrities and other influencers, networks and publishers. Parkland school shooting victim David Hogg, for example, sparked a social media boycott movement that compelled 24 brands (and counting) to drop their advertising support for Laura Ingraham’s program on Fox News after she personally attacked him on-air. (They included such household names as AT&T, Hulu, Wayfair and Bayer). Even though it was simply a matter of re-allocating broadcast placements, brands were forced to take a look at the situation and decide in a public-facing way which side they were on, ethically and financially. And we see it over and over – audiences take to social media to demand an apology, an action, or a comment from brands as a result of events and connections far outside the brand’s scope of control. And the consequences of mishandling the response (Starbucks?) can amplify the scrutiny.

This digital transformation article from Adweek offers a primer on crisis communications, and how they go deeper than simply crafting the right message, along with some great examples of brands engaging in the conversation and clearly expressing their stances (complete with Gen Z generalizations!):

“Traditional brands can no longer sit on their hands and allow well-scripted corporate statements to shape who they are,” says Tripp Donnelly, CEO of digital reputation management firm REQ. “They have to be dynamic and understand they’re talking to multiple generations of people.”

Why it’s hot: Brands who may not think they have anything to worry about should consider that they very likely may find themselves unwittingly sucked into a moment where their current and future customers are looking for a transparent, purpose-driven response. Now is a good time to plan.

Remaking the internet

This intriguing TED talk from Jaron Lanier paints an optimistic and entirely plausible vision for a “new internet” in the wake of the Facebook debacle and other concerns about privacy, regulation and data.

Lanier reflects on a “globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake” companies like Google and Facebook made at the foundation of digital culture — and how we can undo it. “We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them,” he says.


Why it’s hot: About 10 minutes into the talk, Lanier gets into the concept of subscription-based social media platforms, which many have dismissed – because they say “I’d never pay for Facebook”. But Lanier’s analogy is apt – he likens paying for social media and journalism to the golden era of TV we’re all currently enjoying. Pay for Netflix, get great content. The answer won’t exactly be “pay for Facebook”, but the thinking paves the way for an optimistic view of the future of personal data, privacy and subscription-based services that also benefit advertisers.

Bonus: Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain


NYT FAQ’s the Royal Wedding

Complete with cutesy gifs that harken back to the Geocities and Angelfire era of web design, the NYT Style section has crafted a comprehensive FAQ to answer all the questions you never had about the upcoming royal nuptials.


Why it’s hot: Is it good? Maybe not. Is it fun? Yes.


#DeleteFacebook. But can you?

The growth of a movement to “delete Facebook” is leaving consumers in a pickle. As Vox reports, “the emphasis has largely been on users making up their minds about how to deal with the company on an individual level.However, this emphasis fails to take into account both Facebook’s position in modern society and the stakes involved for anyone who chooses to leave a network that has spent more than a decade trying to make leaving it impossible.”

In short, “delete Facebook” is just not that easy.

Again from Vox:

1) Facebook is technologically embedded within a vast web of interconnected third-party apps and social media platforms

2) For many people, using Facebook regularly is a required part of their job or education

3) Facebook is, for better and worse, a tangible tie holding many people to their communities



Why it’s hot: While the media and some in the ad industry may be quick to oversimplify and describe the current scandal as a death knell for the platform, there’s more at stake and more to consider than what’s on the surface. This could be particularly vital to keep in mind for healthcare communications, noting the above tweet referencing disease-specific diaspora.

Artificial, and [somewhat] intelligent: Can common sense be taught?

In a new article by MIT Technology Review lays bare the shortcomings of the current AI landscape: AI Assistants Say Dumb Things, and We’re About to Find Out Why

The goal is to inform a new approach to machine learning that yields better AI experiences. Basically, looking for ways to teach machines common sense and worldly experiences, rather than limiting them to one area of competence and one narrow set of performance benchmarks that create less-than-desirable experiences for end users.

From the article:

Language systems that rely on machine learning can often provide convincing answers to questions if they have seen lots of similar examples before. A program trained on many thousands of IT support chats, for instance, might be able to pass itself off as a tech support helper in limited situations. But such a system would fail if asked something that required broader knowledge.


“We need to use our common sense to fill in the gaps around the language we see to form a coherent picture of what is being stated,” says Peter Clark, the lead researcher on the ARC project. “Machines do not have this common sense, and thus only see what is explicitly written, and miss the many implications and assumptions that underlie a piece of text.”


Here’s one question: “Which item below is not made from a material grown in nature? (A) a cotton shirt (B) a wooden chair © a plastic spoon (D) a grass basket”


Such a question is easy for anyone who knows plastic is not something that grows. The answer taps into a common-sense picture of the world that even young children possess.

It is this common sense that the AI behind voice assistants, chatbots, and translation software lacks. And it’s one reason they are so easily confused.

Why it’s hot: This new approach to testing AI voice command tools like Alexa, Siri, and Google may help lead to breakthroughs and improvements in the space that open up new possibilities in communication.


Snark, sick burns, and memes? That’s so 140 characters ago

To everyone’s surprise, a few days after Valentine’s Day, snack cake brand Little Debbie posted a tweet about the holiday, which quickly went viral.

Why it’s hot: While brands seem to be falling over themselves to try to figure out how to bottle and imitate that Wendy’s sass or Steak-Umms/Moon Pie je ne sais quoi, Little Debbie seems to have hit on something that people are really craving right now: unabashed positivity. The account’s content doesn’t shy away from earnest and endearing, which seems perfectly aligned with the nostalgic brand’s personality without being over the top. By sticking to and being confident in their brand heritage, they’ve managed to stand out from the pack by simply letting Little Debbie be herself.



Next on Black Mirror: Police use facial recognition glasses to track citizens

Chinese police have begun using facial recognition glasses to perform surveillance in public spaces, starting with train stations this Lunar New Year.

This is a period of extremely busy holiday travel, often described as the largest human migration event on Earth, and police say the sunglasses have already been used to capture seven suspects wanted in major cases, as well as 26 individuals traveling under false identities.

From The Verge

One challenge for facial recognition software is that it struggles when running on CCTV cameras, because the picture is blurry and by the time a target is identified they might already have moved on. The sunglasses, by comparison, given police “the ability to check anywhere,” says Wu. “By making wearable glasses, with AI on the front end, you get instant and accurate feedback. You can decide right away what the next interaction is going to be.”

Why it’s hot: You thought Google Glass may have died a few years back, but it and devices like it are only just finding their legs. Black Mirror-esque, surveillance state problems aside, it is interesting and there could be some cool ideas to explore in revisiting how this tech can plug into different existing platforms/apps using features they already have, like facial recognition or geo-tagging.

Facebook’s Latest Changes

Facebook recently announced a new round of changes to the personal feed experience. As part of a broader initiative that included an update to the company’s mission statement, Facebook is in the process of implementing updates with the goal of making connections on the platform feel more meaningful and personal to users. Mark Zuckerberg has openly said it may lead to people spending less time on the platform, with the hope that the time people do spend there will be of higher quality.

“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”


It was a simpler time.

Why it’s hot: Facebook has promised the changes will not affect advertisers who pay to ensure their content is seen (a strategy adopted by MRM well ahead of this latest announcement), but it’s hard to believe that we won’t see some impact on engagement with branded content if users are spending overall less time on the network.Facebook should by no means be discounted from a multi-channel strategy, but now is a good time to review how you’re thinking about the platform. Facebook has taken many steps post-election to mitigate the proliferation of “fake news” and engagement-baiting content, so brands who have not been actively following and responding to the developments will need to re-assess their content strategies and course correct for the platform by adjusting cadence, promotional strategy, and creative.


It’s Facebook-auto-generated-year-in-review Time Again!

From The Verge: “Ah, the holidays. The time of year when Facebook flexes its algorithms to compile all of your best social media posts into a Year in Review video. These little montages have been sprouting up like weeds on my timeline lately, showcasing many smiley faces and birthday wishes. However, they’ve also served as a lovely reminder of just how bleak 2017 actually was.”

As the article goes on to say, “The Year in Review videos are a delightful illustration of how Facebook AI hasn’t quite figured out that it shouldn’t pair negative memories with cute graphics.”

Why it’s hot: A reminder that social media isn’t just fun and games, for better or worse, and we need to be mindful of that as strategists when we think about the context and attitude with which our content is being viewed. Also, what happens when you maybe forget to adjust your content to account for what’s going on in the world that’s causing the daily joys, goals, fears, insecurities and anxieties of your active user base.




An FDA for Tech?

Amid investigations into how Facebook and other tech giants may have dropped the ball on regulating Russian propaganda disguised as US political ads during the 2016 presidential election, and revelations of tax haven practices at firms like Apple in the Paradise papers, questions are being raised about how tech is regulated – or not, and what to do about it.

  • http://www.wnyc.org/story/power-big-tech
  • https://www.recode.net/2017/10/24/16535754/facebook-google-twitter-russia-hearing-political-ads
  • https://www.npr.org/2017/11/01/561298465/online-advertisers-react-as-tech-firms-face-congress

From the NPR broadcast, “Facebook, Twitter and Google are on Capitol Hill this week facing tough questions about how to avoid a repeat of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. One of the people who has testified already is a man named Randall Rothenberg. He heads the Interactive Advertising Bureau. It’s a trade group that represents Facebook, Twitter, Google, even NPR. He says this is a key moment for social media companies, which until now have mostly avoided government oversight.”

Why it’s hot: One of the  comparisons being drawn, and questions being asked, is why aren’t tech giants treated like ad firms and media companies, and held to the same regulatory standards? The proposed solution is to institute a regulatory body not unlike the FDA that would oversee the installation and enforcement of rules and regulations on social media, search and other platforms that are currently able to position themselves as tech rather than media companies. This could have huge implications for marketing and advertising, in terms of cost, availability of inventory, and the potential restrictions and guidelines placed on creative. It also could change the internet as we know it, creating a “splinter web” where different countries impose their own regulations (we already experience this to an extent in the EU and Canada), which would have a big impact for global accounts.


CNN Takes on Alternative Facts

CNN’s Creative Marketing team with agency Figliulo&Partners has launched a new campaign, “Facts First.” The ads are running across social media platforms and interactive display media, supported by a landing page destination that features the full length “apple vs. banana” video. The simple execution suggests this may be a running campaign for the publisher that features different juxtapositions of truth vs. fiction in future, but so far is getting mixed reaction from vocal corners of the internet.

Interactive display unit (unfortunately, choosing either answer takes you to the same landing page):

Campaign mission statement:

The video copy in full:

Facts are facts. They aren’t colored by emotion or bias. They are indisputable. There is no alternative to a fact. Facts explain things. What they are, how they happened. Facts are not interpretations. Once facts are established, opinions can be formed. And while opinions matter, they don’t change the facts. That’s why, at CNN, we start with the facts first.


Why it’s hot: On one hand, it feels like a news publisher taking a powerful stand in the name of journalism and the free press. On the other, CNN is being called out on Twitter and by fringe media outlets for what critics see as the network’s hypocrisy in their penchant for giving airtime to pundits who peddle half-truths and outright lies.

It will be interesting to see if this campaign unfolds to something more substantial and is the start of a cultural, content strategy and operating procedure overhaul at CNN, or if it’s merely a timely but ultimately empty ad campaign that’s just preaching to the network’s choir.

Give this Social Media Manager a Raise

KFC’s Twitter account follows just 11 people. 6 Spice Girls, and 5 guys named Herb. GET IT??

Why it’s hot: When this clever Easter egg was discovered, Twitter fans went bananas, generating viral engagement with little to no effort and generating earned media hits for the fast food chain. It comes off as something that was an off-the-cuff, “what if we…” suggestion, which we should never forget is where some of the best ideas come from.


Rethinking the Pharmacy Experience

“Inspired by service-design overhauls at companies such as Disney and Carnival, CVS is hoping to rethink the entire pharmacy experience.” The chain recognized that it needed to do more to give its customers a reason to visit their brick and mortar locations (not a unique problem facing retail right now, but unique in that CVS deals in prescription drugs). So instead of focusing on just one problem or one solution, they’re looking at a complete overhaul of the experience, with the goal of increasing loyalty and adherence – repeat trips to the pharmacy, and repeat retail purchases.

They’ve started the journey by hiring designer Deborah Adler (she’s behind the pill bottle color coding system used by Target and later declared a “Design of the Decade”). The revised take on CVS’s bottles allows patients understand at a glance when they need to take their medication and how much.

And there’s a huge amount of data driving this design decision. “The first, most important part is a system that understands what medicines should be taken together,” explains Kevin Hourican, CVS’s EVP of retail pharmacy. This is a massive data challenge that involves being able to scan thousands of different variations of prescription—”1x every day,” “once a day,” 1x every 24 hrs”—and then slot them into four basic day parts: Morning, Midday, Evening, and Bedtime. It requires verifying that those day parts are in fact right. And then it requires making sure that there are no dangerous drug interactions and that every drug is taken at its optimal time. (For example, blood pressure medications are best taken in the morning; cholesterol medications are best taken at night.) CVS’s system for doing all those calculations, Script Path, is the first of its kind.”

Why it’s hot: This is another example of a brand taking a more holistic, end-to-end experience approach to loyalty and marketing, and using data to inform what will (hopefully for CVS) be a ground-breaking design solution. This approach could open doors to additional marketing opportunities and collaboration for our healthcare clients, too.

When ads know too much

Google has added the option for audiences to mute ads, citing examples like “ad knew too much“. The point isn’t to put an end to personalized, intrusive advertising, but rather figure out how to make this advertising less creepy. “The company says it uses this feedback to avoid showing you the same ad again across any device or browser on which you are signed into your Google account.”

Why it’s hot: The new feature also lets users block individual third party ads and advertisers. Understanding who is blocking an ad and more importantly why is valuable feedback for strategy, media and creative to consider when the next opportunity to optimize assets or message this audience comes along.


Apple’s Pricing Strategy: A Psychological Game

Experts have been responding to criticism of Apple’s pricing for the new iPhone X. Clocking in at $999, it’s the most expensive device yet – the defense being that this is all part of Apple’s strategy. According to Harvard Business Review, the high price tag is all part of a mind game where brands convince consumers that a high price tag equals luxury, value and purpose.

“Why did Apple push the limits of pricing on the highly anticipated device? A key reason involves using a premium price to set an expectation of excellence in consumers’ minds. […] Bold marketing words are nice, but consumers are bombarded with, and often let down by, bubbly claims. As a result, we cynically filter the validity of these pitches. Setting a premium price is more of a concrete look-you-in-the-eye pledge: “It’s going to cost you, but believe me, it’s worth it.”


Why it’s hot: The high price tag generated a huge amount of earned media and social chatter, and Apple’s lead analyst predicts that 30-40% of the brand’s customers are willing to pay the price. Now it’s on Apple to deliver (or risk a serious backlash from its most devoted fans and big spenders). Could touting a higher price as a good thing be a messaging strategy for other brands?

BONUS! Listen to this episode of the Simplify podcast with Wharton School professor Jonah Berger (the author of author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior) on influence, free will, and marketing.

Narcos Ads Are Popping Up, Cocaine-Like, in Nightclub Bathrooms

Netflix is promoting the upcoming season of its original series about drug kingpin Pablo Escobar with clever ads.

“The advertising is largely built around fact-based campaigns utilizing lots of statistics—this season, to illustrate the Cali Cartel’s massive scale of operations, power and wealth, which far exceeded that of Pablo Escobar. Stats in the campaign include:

• Every three hours, the Cali Cartel made $917,000.
• In 1995, the Cali Cartel earned more than Pablo Escobar and any of that year’s Fortune 500 Companies.
• The Cali Cartel was responsible for trafficking 80 percent of the world’s cocaine supply.”


Why it’s hot: It was probably pretty cost effective, it’s memorable, simple, and it grabs the attention of a “captive” audience. And let’s face it, I’m betting a lot of people are taking photos of these ads with their phones while on the throne and sharing them on social media.

When Emergency Alerts Are Written At A College Reading Level, Who Gets Left Behind?

With hurricanes and tropical storms top of mind this month, this article bubbled up as a good reminder of the importance of readability in communicating messages to our audiences. It highlights the disconnect between the reading level and assumed digital literacy required to comprehend and act on weather-related warnings, and the actual audiences they’re intended to serve (a wide range of people with varying education levels and technological abilities) – emphasizing that readability doesn’t just refer to reading level, but to taking in the whole experience and skill level of a person on the receiving end of the communication. How well can they read; how well can they understand what is meant by different wind speeds and other measurements; and how well equipped they are to know where to look for more information.

Why it’s hot: Marketing messages don’t usually equate to a life or death situation, but when we consider things like medication adherence, food allergy warnings, or crisis communications, they come a little closer. Understanding that readability involves not only the text in a communication but also its context and the computer literacy of the audience helps us bring UX, copy, design and experience even closer together.


Produce is War: How Driscoll’s Reinvented the Strawberry

“Produce is war, and it is won by having something beautiful-looking to sell at Costco when the competition has only cat-faced uglies.” This lengthy New Yorker article recently dove into how Driscoll’s uses market insight and crop science to build their monopoly on the berry market.

Strawberry from New Yorker

“Driscoll’s focus groups have shown that millennials, adventurous and open-minded in their eating habits, and easily seduced by novelty, may embrace pale berries. With these consumers, unburdened by preconceived notions of what a white berry should look or taste like, Driscoll’s has a priceless opportunity: the definitional power that comes with first contact.”

“According to Frances Dillard, Driscoll’s global brand strategist and a veteran of Disney’s consumer-products division, berries are the produce category most associated with happiness. (Kale, in contrast, has a health-control, “me” focus.) On a slide that Dillard prepared, mapping psychographic associations with various fruits, strawberries floated between Freedom and Harmony, in a zone marked Extrovert, above a word cloud that read “Social, pleasure, joy, balance, conviviality, friendship, warmth, soft, natural, sharing.” (Blueberries vibed as status-oriented, demanding, and high-tech.) As I studied the slide over Dillard’s shoulder in her office, she smiled tightly and said, “This is proprietary.”

Why it’s hot: It’s pretty cool to learn how our favorite fruits came to be. I thought this was a cool case study in now market demand and consumer behavior drive product innovation and brand stories.






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.