Videos in magazines? Angela Natividad notes that French publication Enjeux les Echos recently included video ads for Citroën DS3’s “Anti Retro” campaign, even with a little plug on the inside page so you can download the files to a laptop. The technology to insert disposable video into magazines, brochures or direct mail has been around for a while and is costly — typically $10.00 or more per unit, which works out to a $10,000 CPM, about 300 times that of a normal color ad in a marquee pub.
We’re entering an age of gimmickry as print publishers try to defend their old pulp-based models, which while dying still drive far more ad dollars per eyeball than web equivalents. Toss in the iPad, which conceivably could make anyone a publisher of book-quality material, and the old guards of text may soon die. Until then, enjoy the show.
More than 40 billion photos have been uploaded to Facebook and 24 hours of user-generated content are pushed to YouTube every minute. So how can marketers manage “creative” for branding and advertising in a world where everyone is creating? We asked Edward Boches, chief creative officer of Mullen, at SXSW to share solutions.
Technology is best taken with a grain of salt. We’ve written in BusinessWeek that widgets won’t work (wrong), Twitter ads will fail (right), and Google may get its search lunch eaten by mobile (the verdict is still out). But man. 3-D video may change the world.
We discovered this by entering a giant Panasonic booth at the SXSW trade show. Sure, we thought, another visual gizmo. Two guys in front of us were skeptical as well. “I mean, how much better can my eyes possibly see?” one dude asked. But inside the unit, a giant screen and battery-powered glasses gave the future game away. The technology works by flashing hundreds of frames per second on a giant high-def screen, with each frame alternating points of view; the powered glasses have lenses that shutter the left, then right eye rapidly in succession, so fast you can’t notice. The result is two angled images, just like real life, beamed to your brain by each eyeball. Whoa. Soccer balls soared past our head in high-def. Avatar aliens soared through trees. The biggest surprise was typographic and graphics — bright hard edges leap forward, making us wonder what salespeople will do with PowerPoint in a few years.
Panasonic and Sony are pushing 3-D hard. Wired has a complete writeup of Sony’s efforts, which include pushing 3-D into consumer cameras as well, so mom can watch little Johnny wiggle in the air. There’s tremendous energy behind this because Sony has missed some recent tech advances, such as the portable MP3 music market now owned by Apple (and lost a billion dollars in 2008 to boot); meanwhile the average U.S. home now has more 2-D televisions than people. But the real reason is the experience is nothing like you’ve seen before. A minor quibble; with some crowd scenes the people and objects look miniature, a bit of a tilt-shift camera effect that makes you feel like you could reach out and squash them. Guess you’ll have to spring for a big set.
For years the 4Runner has been one of Consumer Reports’ top-rated SUVs, so when Toyota redesigned it recently manly men were intrigued. It has strong lines, influenced by the blocky FJ Cruiser, and some clever improvements such as an overhead console allowing quick tweaks to 4-wheel-drive traction.
The new electrical network
And this is the challenge of the modern Internet. The 4Runner has an old GPS model with a flat 2-D map that shows your pinpoint crawling across it. No 3-D images of the roads looming ahead such as you’ll find in modern $100 units from TomTom or free from Google on a Droid cell phone. This little design problem is endemic across all auto brands, even among the upscale BMWs and Jaguars, because automakers fill their production pipelines years in advance of a car getting to market. When this car was actually sketched back in say 2006, the GPS system was state of the art. Now, in 2010, we have a brand new SUV with technology years behind the curve.
We call this web appliancification — or the constant improvements in devices that plug into global information systems. The Internet was once a vast wilderness that could only be accessed with a specialized device called a “web browser,” but now it’s turning into an information electrical grid, where you can plug in any device and it will work in a device-specific way. Josh Bernoff over at Ad Age calls it the “Splinternet” and suggests that after a golden age of 15 years in which we all used one window to get online, we’re now approaching an era with splinters of connectivity working on gadgets that have incompatible formats. This is true both from a hardware perspective — cell phones, smart phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, GPS units, and web-based appliances — and in content ecosystems.
The ecosystem battle is most interesting because this is where the big money lies — including the billions of dollars in advertising spent each year chasing ecosystem audiences. The Apple iPad doesn’t play Flash video formats, because Steve Jobs wants you to buy video through his iTunes store — an ecosystem for music and now books and film. The Kindle is tied into Amazon’s competing ecosystem. Hulu wants to own TV viewers, Twitter your future connections, Facebook your past friends, Netflix your film entertainment, Google your commercial searches, Microsoft your work tools, Rupert Murdoch your paid news. In essence, the 1990s “portal” strategy in which content producers fought to find ways to lock in their customers is back, alive and well.
This pressure of micronetworks vying to control your online life has created a new brand rush of content positioning. Why has Google launched a cell phone? Because it wants to lock in audiences in the emerging mobile channel. Consumers have only so many modes — entertainment, news, work, friends. There can only be a few leaders for each modality. The challenge for marketers is as devices continue to shift, our connections to these new online portals mutate quickly too. It’s very hard to maintain market leadership in an information ecosystem when the gadgets that hold the keys keep transforming. The risk for your business is no matter how solid your product, like Toyota, your information appeal to consumers may get left on the road behind.
A curious trend in social media is how most of its tools start out as perceived toys, worthy of laughter, and then gradually migrate to the mainstream. When Facebook and Twitter launched, early adopters in the business world were often kidded by colleagues. “That’s great,” an old friend emailed me in 2008 upon hearing I was on Facebook, “now you can stay in touch with teenage girls.” Yet soon Twitter is tied in to CNN feeds and chief marketing officers are networking with their ad agencies inside Facebook. In 2010, if you are not using these tools you risk looking stupid.
So here we go again, with geolocation-social media tools. Relatively new services such as Foursquare and Gowalla update your friends when you reach certain physical spots — in essence, broadcasting your location on a map into your online network. Like early social networks, the premise makes sense yet combines a whiff of immaturity that gives grownups pause. Sure, in a busy world it could be useful to get pinged by a colleague when she reaches a certain point. But the services include stupid-sounding updates. “Hein V. in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, became mayor of Vespuccimarket.” “Patrick unlocked the ‘Adventurer’ badge.” The only mature response is: “WTF?” And this month, in the latest goofy Foursquare update, Jan. 28, 2010 has been decreed “International Day of the Toilet,” wherein you can let your friends know exactly when you hit the can.
But pause. Reflect. Before you deride such silliness, realize the two real undercurrents. First, early creators of new technology must always push the boundaries of maturity, because none of us really needs anything new — so first forays often come off as gimmicks. (Remember the first camera on your cell phone, and the jokes about who needed to take a picture of their ear? Now most people love them and real camera makers are watching their business slip away.) And second, in a world where everyone is now leaping into social media, creators of new social media networks must create game-like mechanics to try to boost adoption and break through the clutter. Gaming psychology is extremely powerful; the “follower” counts on Twitter have become high score rewards that help boost loyal usage. So it’s no mistake that Foursquare updates users’ networks of colleagues with the strange-sounding whimsy of “mayors” and “badges”: It’s a way to get attention, to wake you up, perhaps to get you to try the damn thing.
As such geolocation technology becomes prevalent, we expect the maturity levels to rise and the gimmickry to settle down. Soon, you’ll be updating everyone about your whereabouts, too. Just be careful when you’re in the can.
Image: Drop Nineteens
We joked this morning on Twitter that this buzzing Windows display at JFK Airport made a cool new ad for Apple. But perhaps it’s a deeper signal — that the proliferation of new video screens means all marketers face similar risks of consumer disengagement.
To understand why, let’s visit a ratings service. This past spring, Nielsen trumpeted its $3.5 million Video Consumer Mapping Study, which observed 376 U.S. consumers in 10-second intervals as they walked about their lives for two full days. The results: U.S. residents watch more than 8 hours of “screens” each day, with a full 5 hours and 9 minutes in front of live television. This would seem good news for general broadcasters … until you look more closely:
1. Young demos were observed by Nielsen spending the majority of screen time away from televisions, with about 50% of screen viewing for adults 18-44 coming from DVR playback, web sites, email, mobile, and GPS navigation.
2. “Concurrent media use” skyrockets when ads come on traditional television, meaning viewers move their eyes away from the tube and toward cell phones or laptops during commercial breaks.
This is rough news for the entire broadcast and publishing industries, which are still tied to the 20th century model of third-party advertising driving almost all revenue. The proliferation of screen devices means consumers have more options than ever before to control what they consume, and it’s getting easier to click away: both Apple and Dell may release new wireless touchscreen tablet devices in 2010. More choices mean marketers must get their message and media right, or they’ll fail like a buzzing digital sign at JFK Airport.
Is this a real demo or fake? Who cares? There will be a market for this type of video-magazine hybrid, whether or not Mashable’s sneak peek is actually coming. Given the effort Sports Illustrated put into it, we bet it’s here soon.
Rumors abound that Apple will soon launch a Kindle-killing newspaper-saving iTablet; while this may be good news for print, it could further erode the ratings of television and cable as consumers flock to more videos in their laps. It also creates a challenge for old-school print publishers, and your business as well, as we all have to get comfortable creating and sharing video formats. Forget PR copy or insightful white papers; you’ll need to look good under bright lights.
Via Tim Otis.
Apple, the computer company, unveiled new Nano music players this week that double as video cams, and Slate asked the obvious question: why do little devices keep getting so damned complex? Turns out companies add features to defend higher prices, and consumers keep paying because they love features (despite the occasional odd industry reset to lower-quality MP3 formats or cheap Flip cameras). Even markets expect advances; investors are so calloused by Apple’s yearly leaps they dinged Apple stock this week, apparently disappointed the thumbnail-size music players only capture film images and do not yet levitate.
So: What happens if you play technology all the way forward?
When lenses and storage and GPS and wireless internet fall to the Andersonian price of zero, every device — your watch, earrings, wedding ring — will have video broadcasting capabilities. Video we said, not text. Psychologists debate whether 93% of communication is non-verbal, but it’s at least more than half; aeons of seeking high-quality mates while avoiding tigers have taught people to see the world with eyes. So the final pinnacle device of communication, a nanochip that records and shares the world in 3-D from your retina to our minds, will free our most human needs — to communicate visually, record the environment, share thoughts, and reach all the world. Like the lit highways radiating out from cities and small towns at night, our communication streams will spread from anywhere to everywhere.
The impact on business communications will be huge. Advertising, for instance, cannot possibly intercept the haze of all of those future broadcasts … because streams will originate from billions of individuals. The supply of ad inventory will reach to the sky, and prices for ad space will plummet as media publishers face competition in the air around them. Noted Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield calls this the Chaos Scenario (a bit of a punt, we think), but his point that ad media someday may be recalled as a passing 20th century fad resonates.
Riding the balloon
Of course advertising will endure, just in choppier weather. Marketers will still have voices, customers will still long to consume, and marketplaces for information will evolve to help buyers and sellers make choices. Advertisers may gain in the short term as increased competition for their dollars, driven by ballooning communication inventory, drives down ad prices. (You can see this trend most visibly now in the plummeting CPMs for online advertising space.) At the same time, advertisers will have to measure results carefully to ensure dilution of media does not weaken their results.
Perhaps one approach you should test in the coming year is content that you can film cheaply and pass to the masses for their own modification and replication. Is your organization comfortable using cheap video? Can you produce material nimbly and quickly, giving up draconian controls and HR legal constipation for rapid response? Have you practiced seeding images to the masses? Your customers are going to find and share film anyway. If you don’t get involved, they’ll just shoot apple pie.
A year ago we wrote about engineer Jim Mielke’s design for a wireless cell phone that slides under your skin and is powered by blood. Since then social networks have continued to scale — Oprah joined Twitter, Twitter saved Iran, Facebook got the stream — yet as they continue to fail to make money, advertisers are starting to wonder what gives. Facebook, the No. 2 darling child of the media, has projected U.S. ad revenues in 2009 of about $230 million, which works out to less than half a penny per hour per user.
Advertisers can understand the challenge of social media if they play the game all the way forward. In a few years, wireless internet devices will be so small they will plug into your body, like Mielke’s prototype above. This isn’t science fiction. Humans are already cyborgs — you already know people with fake breasts, false teeth, glasses, contacts, laser eye surgery, hip and knee replacements. You drive a car, a mechanical extension of your legs, and you fly like a bird on vacation. Yesterday we had lunch with a fine man who had a valve in his heart mended and was back up walking within a week. There are now 4.1 billion mobile subscribers on the planet and their radio toys are getting smaller. Andersonian free-pricing logic says the cyborg conversion is inevitable.
Telepathy is coming. Really.
When human crutches turn into human connections, people will have incredible control over sharing content. Your eyes might record a scene; you’ll touch your earlobe to send the video to a friend. As data transmission moves back to pure human-to-human contacts, social media will revert to our native, pre-history connections. Advertisers face a barrier because in social media, human bonds do not require third-party sponsorships. There is no external content to sponsor. Data collectors, who now hope to turn Facebook’s social streams into the Experian of the future, also may hit a wall when human connections can no longer be intercepted.
All is not lost, of course. People have always craved outside entertainment. You can’t talk all the time, so we’ll watch TV for a while yet. And gadgets with shiny chrome or glass will be around for a while, meaning marketers can track data being sucked through the devices that fulfill our hunter-gatherer-sexual-status-signaling instincts. But the irony of these inevitable media shifts into human minds is they will take us back to where we were in 10,000 B.C.: outside TV, radio and print washing over us to fulfill the campfire entertainment role, and human-to-human social media in which we control the intercourse ourselves. Marketers, like storytellers from a clan far away, will be welcome in one place and not the other.