Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback: August 23, 2016

The Olympics are over, though the second-guessing and grumping about NBC’s coverage continues. The New York Times buys an experiential agency. And despite the assurances from Millennial-courting writers and brands seeking their But Really, We ARE Cool – Trust Us! Badge, a majority of marketers don’t think emojis are appropriate in business settings. Here we are with your guide to the important marketing, content, and digital stories of the past week or so: Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback.

Rio Olympics: The Brand Winners And Losers (Digiday, 8/19)

Not surprisingly, the big loser out of the Rio games was Ryan Lochte, the swimming bro-tool who decided that Rio provided him an excellent platform to hone his storytelling skills. (Sarcastic note to content marketers: while I am a big proponent of storytelling, your storytelling has to basically involved truth in order to be effective.) But I didn’t see any positive discussion about NBC’s coverage of the Games – and true to observation, NBC are listed among Rio’s big losers in this piece. To an extent, covering the Games in the US is a thankless gig;  a lot of people go into the Olympics gunning to bark about the coverage. Still, NBC gave the critics ammunition – between its demeaning coverage of female athletes, its emphasis on pre-packaging the Olympics as a collection of soap opera stories, and its failure to fully adjust to digital reality. (I wrote last week about how to change Olympic coverage for the better.)

It will be interesting to see if the increased visibility and online engagement for the brands listed as “winners” will reap ongoing benefit; will Kellogg’s see sales of Special K Red Berries increase? Did Coca-Cola experience a sales spike during the Rio Games? The two other brands listed as “winners” won not through mentions or share of voice, but via tactics. GE continues to lead just about every big brand in how it successfully adopts digital technologies to tell stories and make itself relevant even in storylines where their involvement is not readily apparent to a general audience.

But to me, the trailblazer may well have been Under Armour. The apparel company might just have given brands a playbook on how to best capitalize on the Olympics without getting caught up in the IOC’s draconian Rule 40 regulations or paying through the nose to the IOC for sponsorship:

1) Target the athletes. If a brand can forge a relationship with an athlete who is primed to dominate the upcoming Games, it can capitalize that relationship without having to shell out millions to the IOC. No individual athlete, no matter how good or dominating, will command as much for a sponsorship as full Olympic sponsorship would cost – so expect to see a lot more brand-athlete relationships established and promoted in the run-up to Tokyo in 2020.

2) Don’t forget onsite marketing. Setting up outdoor gyms in Rio so that fans could get a daily workout in? Brilliant. People who take the time to actually travel to an Olympic host city are likely to be very serious about sport; this is the target demographic for Under Armour. Their attention to the onsite crowd rather than just those watching at home was super-smart. I expect that in PyeongChang and Tokyo, more brands may emphasize on-site activation like this. The folks in Under Armour’s marketing department deserve a raise and a vacation.

5 Secrets To Award Winning Content (Content Marketing Institute, 8/14)

I really appreciated this piece by one of the judges for the upcoming Content Marketing Awards; he identifies the common elements of the campaigns or submissions that stood out. Everything listed in this piece has been mentioned before by lots of pundits (including me!), but it’s good to see an awards judge reinforcing the message: Focus on audience relevance, not self-promotion; don’t try to appeal to everyone all at once by kitchen-sinking your content; be unexpected and not formulaic; don’t phone it in – put in the effort to make your content unique; don’t make the mistake of thinking budget is proportional to success. A smart and insightful set of reminders from someone who’s judging your content for industry recognition.

Sign Of The Times: The New York Times Is Buying An Experiential Agency (Digiday, 8/12)

I’m a little behind on reacting to this, but it is significant not just that the Gray Lady recognizes the need to offer marketers the kind of services more traditionally aligned with ad agencies, but that the NYT sees the need as so urgent that it is buying existing skills and agencies rather than developing its own (which takes time).

We’re really interested in playing a bigger role in the marketing services value chain — coming up with an idea, creating it, distributing the idea, measuring it,” said Sebastian Tomich, senior vp of advertising and innovation at the Times.

Traditional publishers moving into the marketing services value chain? Your competition isn’t just other agencies anymore – it may well be publishers.

Is It Appropriate For Marketers To Use Emojis At Work? (Marketing Profs, 8/19)

We’ve all heard the buzz about how emojis are the lingua franca of the digital generation and how companies should make use of them if they want to show relevance to younger audiences. Some companies have really bought into it. But this survey from The Creative Group suggests that the solid majority of marketers don’t find it appropriate to use emojis at work themselves when communicating with their bosses, with clients, or even colleagues — which leads one to wonder why so many in our industry are so quick to recommend that emojis be part of how we communicate with customers.


Twitter Fights Abuse By Making It Easier To Hide Abuse (Marketingland, 8/18)

I’m not sure this is precisely the solution we’re all looking for; a person’s reputation can still be damaged or even destroyed by online trolling, whether the person sees the bullying behavior or not – and I’m not sure the hurtfulness of trolls and bullies goes away just because we can hide it from our feeds and not have it in our face. But while this solution is in my opinion very incomplete, it’s at least a sign that Twitter recognizes that it has a problem with what gets said on its platform. (At some point, I think Twitter is going to have to bite the bullet and acknowledge that if it keeps on with self-identifying as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” it’s going to continue being known as a bullies’ playground, and even maintaining its current user base – much less adding new users – is going to prove difficult.)

Pinterest Debuts Click-To-Play, Mobile-Only Ads (Marketingland, 8/17)

An interesting move by Pinterest to expand video ad options for marketers – though the idea that advertisers have to pay for GIF impressions rather than actual video views could make some marketers balk. Still, if your brand is active on Pinterest, this is a feature or option that you should be aware of and consider.

The Inevitable Shift Of Snapchat Demographics (The Content Strategist, 8/18)

As Garth Brooks once sang, “It was bound to happen, and one night it did…”  In a development sure to horrify the Gen Z set, Mom is likely on Snapchat now. The number of Snapchat users over 25 is growing twice as fast as the number of users under 25 — with a full 50% of new Snapchat users now over 25. This shouldn’t surprise anyone; mainstream acceptance and success by definition includes older users, and advertisers are attracted to older audiences with greater purchasing power. But will this mean that the “kids” will start abandoning Snapchat for platforms the old folks (you know, those over 30) are hanging out on? Or will it just mean an increase the number of articles and posts from social media pundits about how the kids are abandoning Snapchat?

But seriously folks, if your brand is active on Snapchat this is good news; the audience you’re reaching with your Snaps, Stories, and ads is increasingly likely to have more ability to pay for your product. We’ve been saying for a while now that Snapchat has achieved mainstream acceptance and success; this demographic data would appear to confirm it.

The Kardashians Slammed For Not Disclosing Relationships To Companies They Hype On Instagram (Digiday, 8/22)

Oh for heaven’s sake, you mean there’s still anyone involved in the online influencer game who doesn’t get it about disclosure? (Then again, if anyone hasn’t figured it out, I’m not at all surprised that it’s the Kardashians who don’t get following the rules or ethics.)  Truth In Advertising charged that about 100 in 500 — about 20% — of Instagram posts by the five most popular and active Kardashian sisters (I will not name them; like Voldemort, their names ought not be spoken for fear of summoning one) do not include appropriate and required disclosures of material relationships with the brands they’re promoting.

What’s interesting here is the tactic of going after the influencer rather than the brand or marketer. Truth In Advertising has sent a legal letter to the Kardashian family, and suggests that should the family not respond to resolve the concerns by tomorrow (Weds. August 24), they will file a complaint with the FTC. Usually, the onus sits with brands or agencies to ensure disclosure — the FTC has gone after brands like Lord and Taylor for campaigns it feels are deceptive, for example — because typically brands have the deeper pockets for fines. In this case, the Kardashians make an inviting target because they have the money to be held accountable (not to mention lots of influence and a repeated pattern of noncompliance). But the outcome should be watched by both brands and influencers alike — precedent might well be set that the FTC will hold influencers financially responsible as well for failure to disclose. That should nudge any last holdouts who are squeamish about clearly disclosing sponsored relationships or content to their users.

And for gosh sakes, once more with feeling: if you’re a brand, make clear to any influencer you’re working with that their content must disclose the financial or material relationship they have with you. If they don’t want to disclose to their audience for whatever reason, you should politely excuse yourself and hang up the phone.

Making Sense Of Facebook’s Two Latest Algorithm Changes (The Content Strategist, 8/15)

If it’s Tuesday, there must be a Facebook algorithm change.But these changes are really, honestly for the good — both for users and for marketers. The bottom line is that Facebook is really trying to kill clickbait and the use of outrageous or salacious titles, ledes and copy to draw users to irrelevant content or stories that aren’t useful. As a user, you should see less blatant clickbait in your feed and more content that’s actually relevant to you. As a brand marketer, if you’re creating audience-centric content and are genuinely trying to provide value to users, you should now have to compete less with sensationalized internet crap; your value-adding content and messages stand a better chance of breaking through. And if you’re a brand marketer who’s made use of clickbaity, tabloidy content to drive views… shame on you — but time’s almost up.

Do Companies Understand The Customer Journey? (eMarketer, 8/18)

When more than half of senior marketers surveyed respond that they are not confident their company truly understands the customer journey anymore, we may have a problem. While this piece is pretty clearly promotional of the agency that commissioned the survey, it’s still revelatory. Think about your own organization and your own customers. Do you really understand all the steps your customers go through in engaging with your company — through product, online experience, retail experience, sales rep experience, service, or any combination of these? Is this journey clearly articulated to and by everyone in your organization – not just the marketing team, but everyone from customer service to product development to IT?

Snapchat Wants More TV-like Content For Discover (Digiday, 8/16)

This could well mark a shift away from the magazine-like format that has defined Discover so far; in fact, only six current publishers on Discover can be said to have a television programming background. One particularly interesting fragment from this story:

The goal is to turn Snapchat Discover into a destination where the app’s young users can return on a regular basis to catch up on the latest episodes of their favorite shows.

Wow – if this is indeed the goal, it marks a big leap by Snapchat — it would require shifts in user behavior to make this work. Advertisers and publishers may love the idea, but will users love it enough to make it work?

A Different Way Of Storytelling: How The Washington Post Shifts To Video (Digiday, 8/19)

A Q&A from the Digiday events team designed to entice you into signing up for their video summit in November — but there’s some insight here into how and why a traditional text publisher has shifted resources and focus to digital video production. The WaPo has a digital video team of about 40 and is publishing 3x the daily video content that it published last year. Two items of note to me:

First, the editorial video director’s admission that one of the hard parts is getting his newsroom used to a different kind of storytelling. (Brands take note: we’re still talking about crafting strong stories, no matter the mechanism or medium. Think of your content in story form.)

Second, the acknowledgement that it isn’t just user behavior but advertiser demand that is driving the Washington Post’s shift toward video content production. This indicates not just an attempted solution by the Post to the challenge of monetizing as publishing models change, but heightened awareness by advertisers of the need to use new mechanisms to reach an audience — and the influence that advertisers can have on publishers.

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