Advertising Week: Look At Your Fish!

One of the most interesting pieces I’ve read as of late has been The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens in Scientific American. The whole idea has been top of mind as of late, as I’ve noticed myself fighting – with myself, mind you – over just how to read.

Does it make a difference? Am I going to go blind at age 53 if I don’t split my time between my laptop or my iPad or my Nook Simple Touch or just plain…old…paper?

Read more after the jump to Advertising Week!


Happy Summer! Plus: Technology + Creativity FTW

It’s been a while, so let me update you. Since you last heard from me, I’ve finished up a lot of exciting things and started prepping for the next steps in my life’s journey. I finished up my independent study, which ended up being way more interesting and engaging than I imagined going in. It’s called “Brand Personification in the Digital Age: How has the evolution of social media impacted consumer-brand relationships?” and if you’re interested, you can check it out here. Exactly one week ago, I graduated from the University of Michigan. Which is absolutely insane — I miss Ann Arbor and all my friends already, but I’m excited for my next steps.  A couple days ago, I signed a lease for my first year in Richmond at VCU Brandcenter with a couple of GREAT girls! AND I found out I’ll be living on a BOAT in Sausalito, California for the summer as part of my internship at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners!

I plan to use this blog a great deal throughout the summer to keep everyone up to date on my experience in San Francisco, so keep an eye out. And my latest AWSC post should be all the way live real soon — I’m SO excited about this one. It’s all about digital vs. traditional publishing and how we love on the interwebz. If you haven’t already, take a look at Robin Sloan’s revolutionary tap essay, “Fish” — promise it’s worth your time.

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Moving on, I’ve had this link on my desktop for a while now and finally found the time to share. There’s been a lot of great work circulating as it relates to cause marketing lately; but the most powerful example I’ve seen is Grey Spain’s work for Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation (ANAR for short).

The outdoor ad made use of “lenticular printing” in order to create an ad that changed based on the perspective you viewed it from. Adults (well, those over 4’5″) see an image of a sad child with the copy, “Sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” Children, on the other hand, see bruises on the child’s face and the copy, “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you.” Brilliantly executed, the secret message allows a child to see the message even when accompanied by his or her abuser.

Grey Spain uses lenticular printing to create dual-images.

Digiday put it best — “It’s a powerful message that’s enabled by technology, rather than overwhelmed by it,” an issue that often comes into play when technology is put into play for technology’s sake only. Sure, it can be cool, but does it add anything? It most certainly does here.

This gets me so excited to work alongside the talented art directors and creative technologists at VCU Brandcenter in the fall. With such amazing technology at our fingertips, I can’t wait to see what we’re able to produce together.


I’m Back! Plus: Netflix Gambles, Wins Big

I know I’ve been a bad blogger lately. On all fronts.

But that’s about to change — with Advertising Week Europe all the way live in London, you’re about to hear a lot from me. And while nothing’s firmed up yet, I might have some exciting news to share soon on the contributions front.

Speaking of exciting news.

Since the last time we talked, I’ve been accepted into the VCU Brandcenter Communication Strategy program AND I’ve accepted a position as a summer strategy intern at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in San Francisco!

Suffice it to say, I’ve been busy. And I’m SO excited to share all of my future learnings and such with you.

Now, let’s get back to business. I meant this for an AWSC post, but with the backlog that is #AWEurope, I figured I’d share here first.

Here we go:

I’m the biggest proponent of digital culture out there. I believe staunchly in non-traditional media. I cringe when that, excuse my language, asshat of a codger Tom Hammerschmidt tells Zoe Barnes, “Twitter, blogs, rich media, they are all fads. They aren’t the foundation this paper was built on.” But if you asked me whether Netflix’s $100 million gamble was itself one big flimsy house of cards, I would’ve said absolutely.

Now I’m 7 hours deep (upon writing, I was 7 hours deep. update: binge complete) into a Kevin
Spacey-fueled binge and kicking myself for doubting the online giant’s strategy.

Sure, this isn’t Netflix’s first foray into original programming (that distinction belongs to Lilyhammer); but it is the first time the company has taken a hands-on approach to production, tapping big names like David Fincher, who directed the series’ first two episodes.

Pre-release, consumers and pundits alike questioned the streaming service’s ability to succeed – and what’s more, to not lose money – by dropping an entire season at once. Blasphemy, said traditional media.

HBO, the reigning king of original programming, fails all the time. How could this “fledgling” hope to win by going all-in on the first try? They simply couldn’t, right?

Well I’ll be damned. This show is good. It’s really, really good. The acting is top-notch, the plot line is full of intrigue and beautifully developed characters, and the production quality is second to none.

And to those who questioned how “dumping” the entire first season of HOC out in the market at one time could possibly be the right move?

Don’t pull a Hammerschmidt.

This is the way of new media. We’ve grown up with DVD seasons, Netflix and Hulu binges, and the reliability of our DVR. Of course this would work. Appointment viewing has gone the way of paper-only reporting: it’s a relic. Sure, it’s still there, but it’s in no position to not take its newfangled “fad” competitors seriously.

Spacey’s Frank Underwood tells Zoe regarding Slugline (the series’ Politico 2.0), “If freedom and exposure are what they’re offering, I would say that is a meeting worth taking.” This same argument is valid for Netflix, who noted, “For viewers, Internet TV is a better experience because of the freedom and flexibility it provides.”

Steven Rosenbaum wrote for Forbes, “This is a series that deserves to be savored – not ‘binged’ on;” but he couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a 13-hour movie that people are dying to see, not to mention, a 13-hour movie that might just change the landscape of traditional television.

With House of Cards experiencing enviable success, and similar treatment coming for cult-favorite Arrested Development in May, Netflix is paving the way for an internet-TV revolution.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained to investors, “In baseball terms, linear TV only scores with home runs. We score with home runs, too, but also with singles, doubles, and triples.”

Well, Reed, you certainly knocked it out of the park with this one. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.


It’s All About Platform (Bonus: Every Song of the Summer since 1962)

What so interests me about media and its connection to consumers is its ever-changing nature. To be part of something that is constantly in flux is exciting. And it’s important for those involved in the production or consumption of media to realize that it isn’t a static thing.

Publishing
Yesterday, I read an article on the Huffington Post written by self-publishing author, Jane Devin, in response to this quote from Sue Grafton:

To me, it seems disrespectful… that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research… Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.

Devin’s, and my own, point is that Grafton is out of touch. She doesn’t realize that publishing has evolved and continues to evolve. Grafton argues that published authors are in an entirely different sphere, but does she realize that the publishing market today is so heavily influenced by celebrity, pop culture, and social media?

The market today is not driven by talent, but by platform – and self-publishing authors lack the built in platform that comes along with hundreds of thousands of twitter followers or a TV show. Merit does not always lead to publishing: Devin points out, The Help was rejected over 60 times; her eventual deal only coming together with the assistance of a Hollywood director and a screenplay.

If Grafton is using ‘publishing’ as the defining factor of what makes a ‘good’ writer, does she consider Snooki’s or Lauren Conrad’s books ‘quality’? Is 50 Shades of Grey ‘high literature’? It clearly isn’t; it’s glorified porn.

There is a great deal of bad writing – both published and unpublished. Indie writers, who lack the cult of personality of celebrities and other well-known authors, are hard-pressed to find a publisher willing to take a chance. Yes, it happens for some, but it can’t happen for all. They need to self-publish, often investing great sums of their own money, in order to build a platform for themselves. To make a blanket statement regarding the quality of their writing, and deem them ‘less than writers,’ simply isn’t practical in today’s media landscape.

Music
Today, the New York Times wrote about a changing of the guard in music. What it boils down to, again, is platform. For years and years, pop radio has ushered in “songs of the summer” that have more often than not come from established stars, parts of the “old machine of radio and major-label promotion.” Think Katy Perry, Adele, Rihanna – or farther back, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson.

This year, the songs of the summer came out of left field – tracing their popularity to YouTube and Twitter rather than iTunes or the record store. Gotye and Fun. have put out records before, but they haven’t garnered the sort of attention that “Somebody That I Used To Know” or “We Are Young” have. These songs were helped along by social media buzz. With today’s teenagers (2/3 according to Nielsen) preferring to listen to their music on YouTube, “buzz” is more important than ever before. And it isn’t generated by label promoters, its generated by consumers themselves.

There is no better example than the perpetual earworm “Call Me Maybe.” Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit took off when Justin Bieber and friends posted a video of themselves lip syncing the song. Since then, countless renditions have gone viral – two of my favorites being Harvard Baseball and POTUS – launching the 26-year-old Canadian from obscurity to worldwide fame and allowing her to sign a major-label recording contract with Bieber’s help.

The likelihood that “Call Me Maybe” is featured on a VH1 countdown of One-Hit Wonders (if trashy reality tv shows haven’t completely overtaken by then)  in 10 years is extremely high. But that won’t change the fact that it was a megahit – propelled entirely by buzz and platform.

Songs of the Summer – Past and Present (a comprehensive mix)
A few of my favorites:


Why Cover Art Still Matters – Even in the Digital Age

“In the olden days, a reader might pick up a book because the cover was exciting, intriguing, maybe even beautiful. But in the brave new world of e-books and e-readers, the days when (artists) could make us reach for a book may be gone.”

That’s what NPR thinks, but I disagree.

Chip Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, says, “People don’t buy a book on the Web because of the cover. They’ll buy a book on the Web because they’ve read a review or it’s word of mouth or some combination of the two.”

I’ve had an e-reader since mid-March. Since then, I’ve read about 50 books. So while I may be new to the e-reader scene, I’ve had a bit of practice.

When you surf sites like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or even Good Reads, what makes you click through and read the review? For me, that’s the cover art. It’s just a digital version of the bricks-and-mortar store. In the book store, you wander around; and when a book’s cover or title catches your eye, you flip it over and read the description and reviews. Then you make your decision.

For me, the digital process is exactly the same. I read the descriptions of books that catch my eye on Barnes & Noble or iTunes, and then I might head over to Good Reads and check out the reviews.

I can’t help but assume this process is similar for other e-reader owners. I’m not sure I would’ve picked up Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 if the cover wasn’t so intriguing, or Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies if the artwork didn’t conjure up images of my beloved Downton Abbey. Sure, the descriptions and reviews ultimately lead to the decision, but if you expect readers to get to that point, you have to catch their eye.

So please, Chip Kidd et. al, don’t believe you’re obsolete. Our books may lack pages, but we still care what’s up front.

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While we’re on the subject, here’s a few books I probably wouldn’t have picked up with an “ugly” cover – and I’m happy I did.

      


Keith Ridgway Talks Fiction

An excerpt from “Everything in Writing and Life is Fiction,” The New Yorker:

So I try to embrace the fiction of all things.

And I mean that—everything is fiction. When you tell yourself the story of your life, the story of your day, you edit and rewrite and weave a narrative out of a collection of random experiences and events. Your conversations are fiction. Your friends and loved ones—they are characters you have created. And your arguments with them are like meetings with an editor—please, they beseech you, you beseech them, rewrite me. You have a perception of the way things are, and you impose it on your memory, and in this way you think, in the same way that I think, that you are living something that is describable. When of course, what we actually live, what we actually experience—with our senses and our nerves—is a vast, absurd, beautiful, ridiculous chaos.

So I love hearing from people who have no time for fiction. Who read only biographies and popular science. I love hearing about the death of the novel. I love getting lectures about the triviality of fiction, the triviality of making things up. As if that wasn’t what all of us do, all day long, all life long. Fiction gives us everything. It gives us our memories, our understanding, our insight, our lives. We use it to invent ourselves and others. We use it to feel change and sadness and hope and love and to tell each other about ourselves. And we all, it turns out, know how to do it.

This couldn’t be more true. Just awesome, Keith Ridgway. And his book that’s coming out, Hawthorn & Child, sounds like a good read. Can’t wait to check it out!


On Transmedia Storytelling

Transmedia storytelling isn’t a new phenomenon. Movie studios, book publishers, and video game franchises have been taking advantage for quite a few years. The premise is simple: create mechanisms by which the content will permeate consumer’s everyday life. To do this, a story is developed across multiple platforms of media, delivering unique content that exists within the narrative.

Two common examples are The Blair Witch Project and Pokémon. The Blair Witch Project debuted at the Sundance film festival in 1999. Later released nationwide, a viral marketing campaign developed on the Internet drove popularity. The website quite realistically posed the question, “is it a film or a real documentary?”

This question is a perfect example of creating an integral component of transmedia narratives: “negative capability,” or strategic gaps in storytelling that entice consumers to participate, speculate on unanswered questions, and even create their own content.


Pokémon is an even better example. An imagined world of powerful creatures, Pokémon’s creators created need. The narrative was inherently multi-faceted and encouraged children to buy countless trading cards, video games, comic books, movies, and television series so that they could “fill the gaps” in the story.

A good “story world” is key to success – it can sustain multiple characters, and their stories, and thus successfully launch a transmedia franchise.

In what may be the most visible example and significant development to date, J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore, a virtual Harry Potter wonderland, is leveraging a gigantic worldwide audience, introducing a new way for fans to come together and engage with the Harry Potter world. Starlight CEO Jeff Gomez told Forbes why he sees Pottermore as so important:

“It exists not just to sell ebooks, but to nurture and ultimately expand the canon of Harry Potter itself. That’s historic in many ways…They’ll be doing what most movie studios have yet failed to do, which is to officialize and galvanize a massive fanbase into a single location, and then service their wildest dreams.”

There are, however, examples that exist outside of traditional media. A new project called “The Numinous Place,” which is currently seeking funding through Kickstarter, has the backing of actor Russell Crowe (along with his $25,000).

The brainchild of his longtime friend and screenwriter, Mark Staufer, The Numinous Place will use “video, audio, fake security camera footage, fake newspapers – all of (which) will have more of a visceral impact than words on a page.” A self-proclaimed “cosmic detective story,” it will center around a multi-platform ebook app containing audio and visual components, as well as elements to assist lucid dreaming, or the ability to control your own dreams. The Numinous Place website describes the project as “the world’s first truly multidimensional work of fiction.”

I look forward to The Numinous Place, if only because I think it will be interesting to see how they develop a world from the ground up. When you’re talking Harry Potter, you’ve got an audience – and a huge one, at that – built in; but The Numinous Project will seek its audience, just as it is seeking its funding, digitally – and truly from scratch.