Advertising Week: The Evolution of Storytelling, One Tweet at a Time

Texting is killing language. Twitter is killing journalism. Technology is killing the way we socialize (OK, maybe this one’s a little true). Too often, people lament these changes rather than recognizing the opportunities that come with them.

For Ted-talker John McWhorter, such changes don’t represent death, but rather, new life. Texting, specifically, with its baggy structure and lack of concern with rules, shouldn’t be thought of as a ‘decline’, but rather, as a kind of emerging complexity through which we are constantly creating new linguistic markers (like the transitional word “slash” or “lol” as a mere marker of empathy).

We’re creating entire new constructions, but still, we think something is “wrong.” And this is nothing new.

What does this have to do with Twitter? And what does it mean for brands?
Read more after the jump to Advertising Week!


Quality v. Quantity

After day two of my internship, I’m utterly exhausted. I forgot how tiring a full-time job can be! (Promise, I’ll update all of you soon, but I can barely stay awake for my Blackhawks right now.) But in the research I was doing for work today, I came across this quote from Volvo’s CMO in Digiday. It’s a pretty succinct summary of — I think — many of the points I continually try to make, so I just had to share:

Q: If you had all of the brand managers from the world’s largest brands in one room and you could give them one piece of advice pertaining to social media, what would it be?

A: I would say impressions aren’t everything. The quality of the impact, the story you’re telling, and how impactful it is deserves more attention than the impressions. Think about quality first and then determine how you want to get that story out. Too often, marketers are putting less emphasis on the quality of the story.

Can Jello Rebrand #FML?

Everyone’s favorite jiggly snack brand has decided to take it upon itself to rebrand one of the Internet’s longest-standing abbrevs: FML.

The hashtag, very well-known (if not extremely overused), represents a generation’s expression of self-pity. With an accompanying microblog that blew up around 2008-09 and might be considered a forerunner of sites like Texts from Last Night, FML is pretty well-ingrained in digital culture.

Jello, with agency partner Crispin, Porter, + Bogusky, have hijacked the profanity-inferring phrase as part of their latest social media marketing campaign, hoping to gain traction with their new definition: Fun my life.

Let’s move past the fact (as much as it pains me) that that doesn’t make any grammatical sense and talk about whether this ploy might actually work.

The idea is this: Between now and June 14, everyone who tweets the #FML hashtag is entered into a pool, from which a certain number will win “Fun My Life” prize packs “specially created to get their life back on track.” All of this – from the original hashtagged tweets to Jello’s chosen responses – can be followed at

I’m going to break my own rule and start with the fact that “fun my life” makes absolutely no sense. Fun is not a verb; the word they’ve chosen to replace? Verb.

Next up? The creep factor. Yes, yes, I know they’ve pulled the tweets from public accounts by a simple search of the hashtag. But seeing as how an overwhelming majority of those users who will use the hashtag over the next however many days will have no idea about Jello’s campaign, the fact that their tweets are entered into a sort of contest and broadcast on the JelloFML site is, in my opinion, a smidge creepy.

And can they really hope their rebrand will catch on? My assumption is no.

FML is a part of Internet culture – perhaps not to the height of something like “LOL,” but it’s up there. So how can this campaign really hope to make a splash? I’m not sure.

I’ve mentioned this as it relates to social media superstar Oreo: the most successful brands on social media are those who fulfill the 3 C’s of content, context, and conversation. Oreo, with both it’s Daily Twist campaign and its many timely tweets since, successfully fulfilled the “3 C’s” by offering relevant, timely, simple, humorous, and shareable content without pandering for likes, comments, or shares.

Too often, when it comes to social media strategy, brands are more concerned with timing than content; but to succeed in engaging conversation, the strategy must lie at the relevant intersection of context and content. Merely inserting yourself in a consumer’s feed with a message that is either off-brand or off-topic will not encourage the engagement necessary to form consumer-brand relationships, and might go so far as to turn off the consumer.

In Jello’s case, I don’t think the campaign succeeds in meeting the C’s. It seems more that they’re forcefully inserting themselves into conversation when I’m not sure it’s welcome, let alone relevant.

That being said, I’ve wavered back and forth on whether or not I think this campaign is “good” or “bad” (I started drafting this on Saturday). I got second thoughts when I recalled a post I’d written back in the fall that talked about creating conversation and taking part in “surprise and delight” campaigns.

Here’s what I said in that case:

Coke’s digital agency in Atlanta, CSE, tracks social media diligently; and when they notice someone with a substantial following (500+) commenting on college football, they “surprise and delight” by, for instance, sending that Tweeter an autographed helmet.

In my favorite “surprise and delight” moment, a Vanderbilt student tweeted that he and three friends were traveling to Chicago for the Northwestern game and mentioned that they didn’t have tickets. CSE execs found the message and arranged for them to receive four tickets to the game for free.

Completely unwarranted – we’re not talking a sweepstakes, or really, anything from the brand side – Coke Zero is able to build a fan base that is instantly loyal by targeting socially active 18-34 year olds in their target base of college football, notably SEC, fans. I’m certain that if I received free tickets or autographed memorabilia from Coke Zero, all of my friends would know it and know how.

Now that’s pretty cool.

But is it the same thing for Jello to find their favorite FMLers, surprising them with “Fun My Life” prize packs (presumably including Jello products)? I’m not sure. It’s certainly the same idea, but the execution just seems kind of off to me.

And you just can’t convince me that “Fun My Life” was the right name.

Come on people, grammar.

The Power of Social Media

Tonight I had the worst pizza of any pizza, well, quite possibly ever.
Certainly the first dining experience I can recall where the food was truly inedible.

Not a fun start to my evening, suffice it to say. 

But being the social media maven I’d like to pretend I am, I took a page out of Todd Strobel’s book and directed a strongly worded letter tweet to the home of the aforementioned pizza.

With an assist from fellow Skillshare enthusiast @vanevela, I was able to catch their attention.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 7.57.01 PM

For a local suburban pizza shop, their response was impressive. Thoroughly apologetic, timely.
A few DMs later and I’ve got a refund and a free pizza of my choice.

Not that I’m too thrilled about taking them up on that offer, but it’s all about the gesture.

Seriously, though; this is a great example of a brand using social media to remedy transgressions, to respond to and engage with their customers in real time, and to practice quality customer service.

Well done, Old Town Pizza of Orland Park; just not so much with the pizza.

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.


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.

Advertising Week: Special Teams Deliver in 2013 Brand Bowl

When he who lives under the nearest rock asks you who won the Super Bowl, you might be tempted to scream Beyonce!#$!, but you’ll eventually answer ‘the Ravens’.

When he who lives under a slightly more academic rock asks you who won the Brand Bowl, you’ll be confronted with several possibilities.

Ram, with unarguably the most beautiful spot of the night from The Richards Group, was excellent. Hyundai had a great night. Audi, Taco Bell, Kia, the NFL – not to mention the ever-adorable Budweiser Clydesdales – all deserve our praise.

But who really won the Brand Bowl?

Find out after the jump to Advertising Week! 

Microsoft Hits the Right Buttons, But Will We?

Column Five, an agency out of Newport Beach that focuses on visual content strategy and social PR, put together an amazing ad for Microsoft’s much-maligned Internet Explorer – a brand that undoubtedly needs a facelift.

Tugging at the heartstrings of 90s kids like me, ‘Child of the 90s’ is dripping with nostalgia for everything from Lisa Frank and Tamagotchis to half-bowl haircuts and, well, Internet Explorer.

The copy is strong: you grew up, so did we; and its impact is palpable: picked up by Huff Post and a number of outlets, the ad is well on its way to being viral.

But the question still remains:

Will children of the 90s decide it’s time to give IE another shot?

Or will they sit at their Macbooks – as I am – enjoying what is undeniably a great ad on Firefox or Chrome?