Chevy Game Time App Wins Creative Media Award

MediaPost - Creative Media Awards LogoGoodby Silverstein & Partners, Detroit Labs and Chevy received MediaPost’s Creative Media Award for New / Emerging / Experimental Media (excluding online), recognizing the team’s work on the Game Time App for Super Bowl XLVI.

A 24 hour white-boarding session can go a long way, my friends.

Edit: I was just informed the App also won “Best in Show.”

The Hamster, A Digital Marketer’s Best Friend: Hampsterdance (1998)

Note: The views expressed on this blog are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, its management, shareholders or employees.

HampsterdanceRewind to the mid-to-late 90s, just before the dot-com bubble burst, when Internet cafés had viable business models and video gaming went polygonal. The golden days of Quake 2 and birth of Starcraft, when early online settlers and squatters spent hours basking in the glow of low resolution computer monitors.

Living in Tampa, Fla. at the time, I attended a rather controversial religious institute (long story), and began my life as a part-time marketer, working with the non-profit and small business community.

Although I rocked a Pentium Pro PC at home, I would often find myself at a local Internet café, where I sipped exotic coffee alongside proto-citizens of the developing digital world.

For me, the shop served as a safe haven for other solar-deprived “nerds” I had come to identify with and love. Though we sat in silence, physically a few feet from one another, the experiences we shared together were legendary… Well, aside from the creepsters who were downloading porn at a snail’s pace in a public setting.

Legendary… We were helping create a new culture; one with our own language, values, heroes, myths and norms. I’d “surf the Information Superhighway” through Metacrawler and Altavista for hours, and check e-mail through my BBS accounts or Hotmail.

One day, my eldest sister forwarded a link for particularly quirky website, which I promptly shared with my online friends. And, 14 years later, I present to you Hampsterdance – essentially a cave painting from the early, “popular” Internet. Visit a replica of the original Hampsterdance website >

Hampster DanceDigital-Specific Content Generation: A Meme is Born
The story, according to Wikipedia: Deidre LaCarte, a Canadian art student, developed Hampsterdance in August 1998 as part of a personal competition between her sister and best friend. The challenge? Who could generate the most traffic/views. Sound familiar, digital marketers? Exactly.

Originally paying homage to her pet hamster, Hampton Hampster, the site featured animated hamsters and rodents, accompanied by a high-pitch version of “Whistle Stop” from Disney’s Robin Hood cartoon, which looped indefinitely on screen (and in my head for years to come).

For about half a year, the site attracted around 4 visitors each day. But, in January 1999, Hampsterdance “went viral,” spreading through e-mails, chat rooms and early blogs. And, let’s not forget setting a friend or coworker’s browser homepage to the site. Featured in news reports and a television ad, Hampsterdance became a pop culture phenomenon.  Watch the Earthlink Television Commercial > Then, as most memes do, multiple derivatives followed. Several Hampsterdance songs were recorded, becoming minor hits in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Cute & Fuzzy Rodents for Modern Marketers
For most modern marketers, it’s quite a stretch to believe that dancing hamsters or fluffy bunnies can resonate with target audiences. Or is it?

Read the article: “Kia Rolls Home with Nielsen’s Top Auto Ad Award” >

Did Kia and its creative agency study digital archeology to unearth a piece of cultural history? Perhaps.

A few points to consider for Hamster-loving digital marketers:

  1. People “speak” a different language online, through both text/words and measurable behaviors.
  2. The digital world is home to a pantheon of online heroes, oftentimes hilarious exhibitors of epic myths and sharable stories.
  3. Digicultural norms and expectations tend to determine what type of content is shared between friends and social networks, whether the point of origin is traditional (television) or entirely digital.
  4. When developing content, it’s important to consider digital anthropology: how has a particular online community evolved over time.
  5. Truly understand the differences between your target’s online and offline needs, wants and desires – which are, more often than not, not directly related to your product or service.

Watch the original Kia hamster ad on YouTube >

Show & Tell: Just Call Me Steve (Jobs)

Whether you were an Apple hipster or technopleb, the reveal of the iPhone 4 with FaceTime on June 7, 2010 changed the way we viewed mobile communication. Watch the video >

In the palm of his hand, Steve Jobs held a “future” technology, once reserved for the likes of Marty McFly and generations to come: the world’s first real-time video cell phone. Or was it…

Introducing vFōn, the World’s First Real-Time Mobile Video Phone

vFon concept JonBeebe

April 2004 vFōn print ad mockup, complete with a pre-Catwoman Halle Berry as spokesperson and light innuendo.

Digging through my personal digital archives, I stumbled upon this college project from April 2004, which I completed as coursework for “Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs.” Yes, I went back to school a little later than some.

The assignment? Create, design and develop a product or service, then produce a strategic marketing plan to turn your vision into reality.

Having consulted for a number of years prior to attending college, and being known as a “Photoshop Gawd” in online communities, I had a clear advantage over my classmates. While they spent hours drawing stick figures or cutting photos from magazines, I developed my digital prototype and marketing collateral from scratch, using a few images I snagged online and a now prehistoric version of Photoshop.

My product? I developed FaceTime before iPhone existed.  Don’t you just love the dime-sized front-facing camera?

Check out an excerpt from the 2004 strategy document:

With vFōn, you can communicate face-to-face with coworkers, friends, or family.  Take high quality pictures, videos, or simply chat one-on-one, captured by a live-camera.  Whether you are on vacation and want to see a familiar face, or want to demonstrate your latest Elvis impersonation to your Aunt Beulah, vFōn technology can transmit the data in real-time.  The result?  Communication perfected.

It even sounds like an Apple product.  Later in the document, I explore the core target for the product:

The vFōn market primarily consists of young, urban individuals…The vFōn demographic, being technologically savvy and future-forward thinkers, may view the video phone technology as a necessity.  Given the fact that vFōn is the first of its kind, its novelty may appeal to many consumers.  The sleek design, futuristic image, and new technology of vFōn easily separate it from competitors.

While I received an “A” on the assignment, I’ve been sorely tempted to send my friends at Apple an invoice. I’ll waive the usual consulting fees in return for stock options and royalties. Heh.

Check out samples from the project’s final presentation. I hope you enjoy the cringe-worthy print ad write-up. Yeesh.

vFon concept introductionAnatomy of vFon conceptvFon product concept

Stride Gum Launches Mintacular, Now with Long-Lasting Apple Flavor

Mintacular GumStride gum, the brand synonymous with… Erhm… Are they really synonymous with anything in particular? …Stride gum recently launched a satirical campaign, parodying Apple’s iconic approach to advertising. The mockumentary, featuring Olympic gold medalist Sean White, is both hilarious and delicious.

My Take
With Christopher Guest-like charm and nuance, the Mintacular campaign manages to both revere and poke fun at Apple’s almost religious approach to its products and marketing. Better yet, it portrays itself as fun, dry, sarcastic, witty and scrappy. And, for me, that works. If only it were gluten free.

In the hands of digital marketers, Parody and Satire can be tools to rewire consumer thinking and jumpstart brand conversations. See another brand’s fuel tank topped off with high awareness, opinion or consideration? Parody can help you siphon shamelessly.

Read how Stride pre-launched the campaign, and its future plans in The New York Times article >;

A Mountain (Dew) of a Train Wreck, Ragú: A Saucy Reward for Innocence Lost

Note: The views expressed on this blog are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, its management, shareholders or employees.

Dub The Dew Mountain DewSpeaking candidly, I love a good marketing train wreck.

This includes my own crashes and blunders, as, in my career, I’ve paid more than my fair share of “tuition” for miscalculations with six to seven figure price tags.

For those in the digital marketing world, every action has a measurable reaction: from billions of impressions to individual clicks a consumer makes (or doesn’t make). For some, marketing online is more science than art. The vigorous testing, scoring, progress reports and report cards can be brutal to a marketer’s creative side. And, trust me, creative and media train wrecks are frequent – if you look at the numbers alone.

Measurement aside, for me, there’s something delicious and altogether captivating about awkward moments between marketers and consumers. On either side of the coin, it’s difficult to quantify that feeling of betrayal of trust, disappointment or “what the hell were they thinking” moment after experiencing an “off” ad or campaign.

While I think it’s important to examine a brand’s intention and objective when examining the wreckage of a botched campaign, online consumers have little incentive to care about such things beyond a simple comment or “Like” on a Facebook newsfeed about the event.

“Mountain Dew Just Lost the Internet”
In many cases, digital subcultures can take advantage of a brand’s digicultural naivete. Take Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen & Mountain Dew’s recent contest/name-game mishap: “Dub the Dew,” which fell victim to 4chan’s mischievous antics. Read the Time article >

Regardless of the level of appropriateness or decency, are we really shocked that names like “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Moist Nugget,” “Fapple” or “Diabeetus” made the top of the socially/consumer generated list? The underbelly of the Web feeds off these types of situations, and was largely laughing at Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen & Mountain Dew. It was a pure demonstration of consumer dominance over brands in the online space. And, to me, it was amazing to behold.

In a statement, Mountain Dew has apologized to fans offended by the debacle, and quickly distanced itself from the campaign as executed.

“Dub the Dew,” a local market promotional campaign that was created by one of our customers—not Mountain Dew—was compromised. We are working diligently with our customer’s team to remove all offensive content that was posted and putting measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Mountain Dew has a legacy of engaging its most loyal fans to tap innovative ideas for the brand through really successful programs like “DEWMocracy” and “Your Malt Dew” and so we sincerely apologize to all of our fans who may have been offended by this customer’s program.”

Regardless, both the pizza company and Mountain Dew didn’t appear to anticipate or appreciate the reality of a digital truth: People do and say things online they would never do or say in the “real” world.

Sex & Spaghetti Sauce
Which, indeed, brings us to RL (real life, for the less nerdy). Ragu recently launched a commercial that made it’s way to my Facebook feed, accompanied by a “I can’t believe this is actually a commercial” comment or two, followed by several “WTF?!” responses.

This deliciously awkward moment brought to you by Ragu, proud sponsor of The Bedroom Olympics:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve suddenly got a hankerin’ for some pasta. And, perhaps some therapy to discuss my childhood.

This isn’t a Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Halftime Special. This is Ragu directly associating mommy and daddy’s WWE Monday Night Raw wrasslin’ with their product. Exactly what a consumer wants to think about when enjoying pasta (note to mom: heavy sarcasm).

Honestly, I find the ad rather amazing and hilarious, in that wildly awkward-train-wreck kind of way. I applaud Ragu’s bravery and “Brand Building from Left Field” attempt, though I can’t help but notice the “what the hell” reaction many consumers are voicing across the social web.

My opinion? Leaving a consumer with an awkward feeling has a time and place, albeit infrequent and targeted. I think charities and non-profits often use this method (along with guilt) to their advantage, to move people beyond complacency toward action.

Regardless of where one falls with Ragu’s sexy spaghetti ad, it will certainly ignite the online landscape with thousands of comments, arguments and conversations. Millions of YouTube views aside, I know what many of us will be thinking about when we sit with family over a large plate of gluten-free pasta: Why didn’t Prego think of this?

Julia Child Remixed

After the social success of its Mr. Rogers’ Garden of Your Mind Remix and Bob Ross’ Happy Little Clouds, and in celebration of what would be Julia Child‘s 100th birthday (Aug. 15), PBS Digital Studios has released a new autotuned tribute to the culinary legend. Just released as part of it’s “Icon’s Remixed” series, it’s currently capped at 302 views. Expect this to reach a few millions in days.

Online content development tip: When in doubt, use nostalgia, autotune or both.

Brand Building from Left Field, Doug, Old Spice & Water Polo

Ever since Isaiah Mustafa debuted as the Old Spice Guy in 2010,  the company has consistently demonstrated its online savvy. I find its humorous and unapologetic approach refreshing and brilliant.

Old Spice Social Media

From quick-witted topical tweets to rapid responses at YouTube comments, I love how Old Spice fearlessly broadcasts or produces content unrelated to their product — while still building its brand. It’s struck a great balance between product feature/benefits and the type of content consumers prefer to read, watch and share online. Old Spice is behaving like your witty friend making a fun post on Facebook or Twitter, not an annoying furniture salesperson.

While the approach may not move product immediately, lightly-branded, engaging connections are bound to strengthen your online street credibility and relevance for future brand consideration.

For advertisers, when was the last time your brand had the intestinal fortitude to post something from left field, or without branding? It’s a risk most are uncomfortable taking.

In my past life, I’ve run online advertising campaigns with and without obvious branding. What data has indicated time after time is clear: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It really depends on the brand and/or product. For an entry level sedan, the “left field” content caught our target’s attention. For a luxury vehicle, sometimes not so much.

Adapting Your Strategy
For digital advertisers, it’s important to test and monitor your campaign messaging and approach while in flight, to ensure your content resonates with your target. This can be accomplished via analytics performance measurement, depending on the campaign objectives (retweets, views and completion rates vs. clicks and conversion rates, etc.), or by simply reviewing comments and associated sentiment.

After the official unveiling of Doug, the Ford Focus Spokespuppet, it became quite clear we needed to adjust our strategy. While the character clearly resonated with our intended audience online, several blogs and news entities pointed out Doug’s less-than-discreet approach toward women upset some viewers. Honestly, we did anticipate this reaction, but didn’t expect the media to run with headlines like “Sexist Sock Puppet is New Ford Spokesperson.”

While we wanted to hold true to our strategic approach and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Office, Freaks & Geeks) plan, it was clear we needed to tone a few things down to address consumer, media and internal concerns. Read Brand Channel’s article “Ford to Focus Doug Character” >

Because we were still producing the Webisodes, with Rob Cohen (The Simpsons, SNL) later at the helm, we were able to capture a more well-rounded character, while still letting his “freak flag fly” (a Doug quote, not mine).

Lightly-Branded Content
Automotive enthusiasts and bloggers would often criticize our approach: We didn’t show the product, or even mention it, in all of the Webisodes. While we were sure to include features/benefits in most videos, we would sometimes shift focus toward the relationship between Doug, voiced by Paul F. Tompkins (Comedy Central), and his handler, John, who was played by John Ross Bowie (Big Bang Theory). So how did we balance it out?

While the Webisodes on YouTube served to entertain and inform, Twitter and Facebook provided platforms for product and brand messaging. A team of two writers (including the brainchild behind Doug, Sue Driscoll) would respond directly to comments we received from our fans and critics alike – often within a few hours. It is through their genius we were able to steer conversations toward the product, and how Doug and John demonstrated its features in action.

I truly believe our lightly-branded approach that made the brand/product easier to connect with in the first place.

While I’m unable to provide Ford’s internal numbers, the campaign clearly and significantly increased awareness and consideration, with some car buyers crediting the little orange guy for their purchase.

The Doug Team

Edit: Just for fun, a few people might not realize we actually introduced Doug prior to the press conference Webisode. Click to watch Doug’s origins. Three videos, which featured the puppet in acts of heroism – saving people’s lives (referred to in the press conference). Ford has since removed these videos from YouTube, but, with a little digging, I found the first video in full – completely unbranded, which originally had close to a million views. Watch it here >