Category Archives: Instagram

The moral ethos, tantric lust and fakery of Instagram

The Ten Commandments are imperatives followed by the Jews, Catholics and Protestants for happy life — don’t steal, cheat, lie — set down by Moses and immortalized by the tanned Charlton Heston in the 1956 film by Cecil B. DeMille. The idea, of course, is that delayed consequences typically outweigh the pleasure of the moment; sleep with the hottie next door and oh, what a tantric afternoon, but when you lose your beloved later to a lawsuit you won’t feel so fine. Of these laws, the most interesting perhaps is “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

Idols. We wonder, of course, at the meaning — no, this isn’t a blog about God, but instead of communications value. So why would a multi-thousand-yearlong meme about spirituality suggest that “idols” are as bad for your soul as sleeping with your neighbor’s spouse?

We live in an age of idolatry, from the obvious American Idol and reality-TV-flavored New Jersey housewives with plumed bosoms to iPods that cocoon us in artificial music and laptops that pull us to friends we have never met. Instagram is the latest invention, a seven-month-old social network of photo sharing that allows a snapshot of lackluster scenery to become a minor work of art.

Boring reality

For example, see the photo above. This was shot quickly on a cycling trip as the image of a tree before a cloudy sky caught our eye. The actual image wasn’t impressive, but we thought, “we can do something with that.” A crop, alignment, filter, and viola — colors bloom.

The expression of the human soul and hunger for connections have been with us for generations, but we are evolving to the point where technology can distort the world around us. Instagram is the latest addiction; a wonderfully clever service that ties quickly into Twitter to give your existing social graph a new overlay, photos you can edit into almost any creation. So we feel more connection to the world around us that doesn’t quite exist. The pastels of unreality are wonderful. What happens when technology embeds filters in our contacts, and artificial overlays make any image appear more what we want than what it is? Eventually, we can turn anything into a beautiful construct. Are fake idols good for us, too?

Until we figure it out, we’ll play on Instagram. It has more than 2 million users already, and is attracting 130,000 idolaters each week.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Warner Brothers spins someone else’s web

Way back in the old days, say, 2008, people worried about losing their personal identities and companies fretted about competitors gaining their customer lists. The new valuable asset in play is your personal social network.

Case in point: Warner Brothers, eyeing the $59 billion in annual U.S. TV advertising up for grabs as consumers shift from cable, is about to launch a “Digital Everywhere” network that allows you to aggregate your entire video library in the cloud. Digital Everywhere combines flavors of iTunes (you buy or rent movies and TV shows), Amazon Cloud Drive (you store your stuff online), Netflix (the service personalizes recommendations), and Facebook (it pushes recommendations to your friends). If that sounds confusing, think of Digital Everywhere as a new hub that links to all your other entertainment hubs — a Dyson vacuum to suck up all your cluttered video content so you can find it in one place. Warner Brothers has a vast library to stir interest: everything from Peanuts, Sesame Street, Looney Tunes and Charlie Brown to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Austin Powers, the Harry Potter film series, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Mad Magazine and Ocean’s Eleven.

Groovy, except this brings up an interesting competitive point. This app works with the rest of the entertainment industry, but also lifts data from those players. CNBC reports that if you plug in your password to Netflix, Digital Everywhere can scrape your history there to personalize recommendations. Digital Everywhere also plugs into iTunes and Facebook, where it can parse all the purchases you made through Apple and then share what you’re doing with friends.

In essence, Digital Everywhere is building off the entertainment and social networking equity competitors have accrued elsewhere. Often, this “network scraping” technique helps new services scale — Instagram, a clever social media photo application, grew to more than 2 million users in just 6 months by linking seamlessly to Twitter, for instance. Riding the web of others is a fast path to growth. The hard lesson for companies like Apple and Facebook rushing to build the future’s new entertainment platform is if they build wide enough, competitors may not stand on that stage — they may draw a circle around it and push a new platform under it.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Zxgirl