Category Archives: olympics

If media is dying, why do you want a bigger TV?

(Play me.)

One of the great myths of our advertising generation is that traditional media is dying. Never mind that 30% of U.S. homes own four or more TV sets, or that the very bloggers who proclaim 30-second spots are dead also promote Panasonic high-definition televisions. Media is certainly shifting, but it’s an additive landscape — because new communication tools are overlaying old media, not replacing it.

Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff said this week that social media may be boosting television ratings, as consumers find new impetus to tune in to community events. Ratings are up in 2010 for the Grammys (26 million viewers this year vs. 19 million last), the Golden Globes (up 14%), and the Super Bowl (at 106 million viewers on CBS in January, it was the most-watched TV event of all time). Media is additive because consumers are learning to do two things at once; Nielsen reports that 13% of viewers of the Olympics’ opening ceremonies were also online typing away on Twitter or Facebook.

There is no question that the currency of advertising impressions is becoming devalued, and thus marketing is more challenging, but it’s a reset — not a vaporization. This week we discussed where all media is going with the verbally elegant Angela Natividad and ideation guru Bill Green on the AdVerve podcast.

Haha! London Olympics logo stinks! Except, wait, we didn’t mean it …


Sounds like fun. The logo for the 2012 Olympics in London is so bad that designers are holding a contest to see if you, or anyone else, can do better. Fire up Word or Paint. Send it here. See if yours wins!

Except designers should beware the boomerang. Think of it. Thousands of artists will now pile on, whip up brilliance for free, submit it via a blogging tool to a web site for others to vote on … and you can almost hear a business model slipping away. London organizers paid almost $800,000 for the logo — which worked out to about $400,000 per magic marker — but they’d have been better off holding a free social-media competition.

Keep it up, critics, and you’ll put yourselves out of business. Via MTLB.

Guo Jingjing’s lesson about ego

Last night we watched Guo Jingjing of China win her fourth gold medal for diving (shown in a prior competition above, the NBC breaking-news version is still under some form of IP protection…) and thought:

Man, what composure.

The pressure on Guo was intense, but at the end of her final dive, when she slipped into the water like an arrow from the sky and gold was assured, Guo climbed out of the pool, turned to the crowd and made a gracious bow, with no hint of pride on her face. She simply seemed a hard worker after a job well done.

We can’t imagine such restraint, being an American who competes with others every day over contracts and client work and results and credibility. In the United States, white-collar workers tend to drive themselves to 60 hour weeks trying to get ahead, or stay afloat, and in our off time we dally on Facebook and Twitter and blogs trying to make further names for ourselves. I’m not sure how much is driven by greed or demand for recognition, but seeing how many other bloggers send their own links around promoting their ideas, we bet a lot.

Ego is a scary trap and something we fall into. We were celebrating a minor PR success yesterday when we stumbled upon a Twitter message by brand visionary @darrylohrt, who wrote “people who only tweet about their own blog posts pretty much suck.” It sounds harsh, out of context, but as Darryl jotted this note to a friend, we felt the pang: Who hasn’t done this?

Maybe social media and business performance have more to do with achieving results than post-glory grandeur. Here’s to people like Jingjing, who hit the mark and take it in stride.

China faked opening ‘footprint’ fireworks


We hate to disparage such a beautiful opening ceremony, but news has emerged that the Olympics sequence of fireworks — in which star-outlined footprints burst from Tiananmen Square to the stadium — was faked. As in computer graphics. As in, real fireworks were out there, but the organizers realized no helicopter could capture the shot, so they spent a year in advance building the scene with hi-tech animation in a film studio.

Rats. We love CGI, but are realizing its uses are moving beyond ads on baseball backstops and yellow lines popping up on football fields. Olympic swimmers now have their names emblazoned with graphic arrows in their swimming lanes. William Shatner allegedly (unconfirmed!) (rumor!) had his butt trimmed by computers in a Star Trek movie. Where will all this stop? If you tune in for an event, isn’t the joy seeing the potential flaws, or success, of the performance?

A Twitter contact of ours just joked she uses CGI to make her bosom look bigger. Could be. Can’t wait for 3-D computer graphics to get here; when they do, we plan to pump up our biceps like Mr. Incredible.

Spain’s slant on Olympic diversity


Spain’s Olympic basketball team says it intended no offense with this ad celebrating its trip to China … with the team all making slanty-eyes.

The offense is so obvious we cringe, and we’re sure the courier company that paid for this full-page ad is glowing in the PR today. But this also offers a caution to other marketers not paying attention to how different audiences may interpret your message. Are you missing something that, by not thinking, creates a foul impression?

Adidas to China: It takes a team

Most U.S. sports advertisements focus on individual success — one guy beating another running, one female tennis pro looking like a fashion model, one Tiger Woods being the Tiger. In America, we all want to be the one.

This Adidas ad in China shows the difference between U.S. and Eastern cultures. Notice the long windup, heavy on adversity and potential failure and group pressure, before the payoff in which a leaping crowd makes winning possible.

Neither approach is wrong or right. Just fascinating how different cultures view the basic idea of sports success.

Olympic torch riots: A lesson for marketers


Call it a case study in viral communications. The Olympic torch sparked riots in Paris yesterday. Protesters furious with China human rights abuses stormed barricades and snuffed out the torch, forcing police to retreat with the smoldering symbol of human brotherhood … to the inside of a bus.

Not to belittle this controversy, but the Olympic torch — carried on a predictable path surrounded by political controversy — is a recipe for mass hysteria. It has the same ingredients as any human fad, whether that be Razor Scooters, iPhones or Facebook. Marketers who want to understand how fads start can learn from mob behavior.

Sociologists David Haddock and Daniel Polsby list four requirements for mass action:

1. Get a crowd. Mass behavior first requires a mass. Now, crowds alone do not spark riots — people cluster together every Fourth of July without harming each other. But a big group of people is the starting point.

2. Get some clones. The crowd must attract like-minded people, say, those who want to take action and who believe others do, too. If you think of any mass tipping point, it begins with similar users — musicians on MySpace, college students on Facebook, technology buffs with the iPhone. Protesters who care about the Chinese human rights issues share a powerful, political longing too.

3. Find the nodes. The crowd must then coalesce around “action nodes.” Riots or fads don’t start everywhere at once — there are certain points in the crowd that become trigger hotbeds.

Haddock and Polsby note that “action nodes” are like little magnets, attracting people most likely to start the fight or fad. For example, at street scenes, police and television reporters often cluster around spots where violence is most likely to erupt — so if you are interested in violence, you walk to where the police and reporters are. In marketing, “cool hunters” such as sneaker-clad bloggers we know report on the latest trends — so if you want to be on the edge, you read them every day.

In the absence of visual cues, people can often guess where the hotspot is. Consider one study where people were asked how they would meet a friend in New York City on a given day without any idea of where the friend would look for them. A common answer was: go to Grand Central Station, information booth, high noon. Because my friend would probably guess that, too.

A little intuition and you’re drawn to the epicenter.

4. Launch signal. And finally, a signal event is required. This is also known as a Schelling incident, after game-theory author Thomas Schelling, which tells you not what you should do but instead what other people are about to do. No one wants to be the first out of the gate (or the first to be arrested). But if you see others are about to charge in, you dive in, too.

Signal events may happen naturally because in any random order of events, patterns emerge. Flip a quarter 50 times, you’ll get three or four heads in a row. This is why your iPod repeats songs while it’s on shuffle. If you put enough angry people together, eventually a few will bump into police at about the same time, and that “pattern” triggers others on the edge to jump in.

(This vary randomness is frustrating for anyone, such as marketers, trying to launch a viral campaign because it really can’t be controlled. Facebook’s fame and fortune started with some tipping point at a college — but it just as easily could have been another social network that took off when a few frat guys all said at once, “man this is cool.”)

And that’s the lesson for marketers. You need a crowd, clones, nodes and a signal. The reason most marketers can’t launch viral campaigns easily is because they really only control 1 of the 4 ingredients, the signal. Without the crowd in the proper position, chasing the opportunity, the fad won’t fly.