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!


Advertising Week: Keeping It Real (Time)

Find your voice.

Reach your audience.

Increase your relevance.

These are the three commandment’s offered by Twitter’s resident UK Brand Strategist, William Scougal, in his Advertising Week Europe talk, Keeping It Real-Time: How To Talk To People That Talk To You.

Read more after the jump to Advertising Week!

Bring on the Tweet Seats

No, that’s cheap seats. I’m talking about tweet seats. Wait, what?

The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis has begun offering special seats reserved for the social media addict. Likened to smoking lounges of old, the Theater’s External Relations Director Trish Santini told The Verge that the intent was not to cordon off these smartphone users, but rather, encourage deeper interaction with the show.

Other venues, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Palm Beach Opera, New York’s Public Theater, and several Boston venues have launched – or at least toyed with – similar programs.

The idea is to embrace the mobile habits of today’s consumer, rather than discourage them: a move that’s strikingly modern for what some would deem ‘old time’ entertainment (e.g., Opera, the Symphony).

So what does this mean for the rest of entertainment venues?

In my sport marketing class, we talked about a similar situation on many occasions.

Wouldn’t it make sense, wouldn’t it add value if professional teams instituted a section where fantasy players didn’t have to be shy about rooting for a given player because they were on his roster and he was down 3.75 points?

A section like this in sport-specific venues would make even more sense than it does in the theater. Maybe the ticketed fans in that section would have access to wi-fi (or better wi-fi in the cases where stadiums have already implemented). Maybe their interactions with the team on social media would be spotlighted on the jumbotron at given points in the game.

And movie theaters? Another great opportunity, as my new favorite website points out:

Same premise, broader appeal. I wonder if you could even do a specific smartphone screening from time to time, where everybody in the whole theater knows what they’re getting themselves into. Maybe even project a Twitter feed on the wall next to the movie.

The idea of a social-only screening is so great. Basically a focus group for movie marketers, but on users’ terms.

Many purists might think all of this too much. But look at social tv and the success of platforms like Viggle.

It’s a bit like the outcry when the MLB tried to put ads for Spiderman on the hallowed ground that is the bases. While I’m with you on that one, this just makes sense.

We’ve got to change with the times. Digital and social are the new normal: so why not embrace it in a way that adds value, creates conversation, and encourages engagement?

It just makes sense. I say, bring on the Tweet Seats.

How #Twitter Cancelled the NYC Marathon

It might sound ridiculous; but at the heart of it, it’s true.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that so severely hit New Jersey and New York, Mayor Bloomberg made the, albeit tentative, decision that the 2012 ING New York City Marathon would go on. He, along with New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg, issued a joint statement that held that the marathon would not take away significant manpower from the recovery process and acknowledged the event as “a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this city.”

True as that might be – the race has been held annually since 1970, even in 2001 just two months after 9/11 – it was the opinion of the majority, at least of those who voice their opinions publicly, that holding the marathon, just days after what can only be described as a disaster, would be a travesty.

The outcry was instant, and it was loud. Many called for runners to turn around, walk away, and aid in the recovery process when the starting gun fired. Others rightfully, but perhaps less dramatically, questioned how the government could justify sacrificing any amount of manpower when residents of Staten Island were facing life or death situations, when all of Manhattan was struggling to get back on its feet, when there was a soon-to-be gas shortage and still millions without power.

In this day and age, to ignore all of that is a lofty task. Tweets from “average Americans” and members of the media alike make their way into the mainstream, #topics go viral in a matter of minutes, and the chorus swells louder than it could ever have before. Mayor Bloomberg had to acknowledge the majority, admit that his decision just might have been a rush to judgment, and ultimately do the right thing by postponing the marathon.

Simply put, it’s just about impossible to justify holding a major, major event — essentially, the same as a parade — just 2.7 miles away from this:

I’m sorry Sandy messed up your training schedule, marathoners, but I’m pretty sure the manpower can be put to better use.

A Whole New World

Ok, so maybe it isn’t entirely new. But everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon lately – and in a very big way.

I’m talking about web-exclusive content, and it’s coming from several big names.


A few weeks ago, industry insiders reported that Twitter was in talks with several Hollywood producers and network execs about launching original video series via the social networking site. They are rumored to be pitching a select group of advertisers on a series that would be live on Twitter and enable real time user participation. The series would be similar to MTV reality shows – like The Real World – and may be distributed within promoted tweets or on a standalone page.

Twitter seeks to shake up the media space with this sort of platform. By “building content on top of Twitter…(the site) would serve as a distribution vehicle and advertising middleman,” according to an industry insider.

This further integrates the idea of social TV that I mentioned in an earlier post. Instead of a third-party app that facilitates social media interaction, the content would actually exist on the social media platform itself. The in-feed content would appear alongside user tweets, which (instead of acting as the usual social TV commentary) are rumored to potentially influence the show as it airs.

Huffington Post

On Monday, Arianna Huffington’s popular online newspaper launched HuffPost Live, a platform featuring 12 hours of daily video content. This socially driven approach to news is ambitious to say the least. Forbes lauded the launch, bugs-and-all, for its thought-provoking Huffington Post sensibility, energetic commentators, largely promising hosts, and running feed of comments.

Huffington seeks to broadcast content that doesn’t receive airtime on “the big 3” networks, and they, thus far, are doing so successfully. As the platform has only been live for a few days, there are obviously a few kinks to work out; but the premise is promising.

People today, especially youth, are consuming their news in a new way. I love The Huffington Post, and for the most part, I do not love broadcast news. The idea of creating a new sort of news network that is relevant to Gen X et al is the right one; and once the kinks are worked out, I am confident HuffPost Live will be as successful as its parent site.


Rounding out the trio of web innovators, Yahoo unveiled #HashOut this week. Big names such as Maria Shriver, “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof, and prominent Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter – among many others – will be part of the show, which is being described as “the first talk show to be conducted over social media.”

The panel will offer viewers “a new way to talk about the news,” and is certain to be comprised of largely social components. A launch date and further details have yet to be announced, but you can sign up to be alerted here.

All three of these serve the same purpose: to further integrate social with media, in all forms. Services like Viggle add a social component to TV viewing, but these represent a true marriage of the two. As consumers become more and more interconnected, this is the next logical step – one that, hopefully, will prove successful.

Did I name this post A Whole New World purely in order to make this relevant? Yes, yes I did.




A Word on Tape Delay

Everyone’s all up in arms about NBC showing major Olympic events on tape delay, hours after they’ve happened, and hours after many on social media – notably, Twitter – have reported the results.

If you don’t understand why NBC would do this, let me explain. It all boils down to money – ratings and revenue. If they were to air events in real time, most of the United States would be at work, not in front of their TVs; and advertisers would pay much less for these smaller audiences. By tape-delaying major events (think Lochte/Phelps, Gymnastics) into primetime, advertisers are more apt to buy spots, and at a much higher value.

You want the IOC to step in and stop this madness? Think again. The IOC relies on the USOC and its massive broadcast revenue. Before reaching an agreement in May, the USOC received a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 percent cut of U.S. broadcast rights deals.The IOC deemed that excessive; the two sides finally reached an agreement wherein the USOC will retain the revenue it currently receives but its TV rights share will be reduced to 7 percent on any increases in broadcast deals and its marketing share cut in half to 10 percent on increases in sponsorship revenue. In addition, the USOC agreed to contribute to the administrative costs of staging the Olympics — $15 million through 2020 and $20 million after 2020, the officials said.

In both situations, the IOC quite clearly benefits from US broadcast revenue and would certainly cheer any decision that enhances that revenue.

NBC is doing what is best for business – and is reaping the benefits, with ratings beating Beijing on each night thus far. The minority of social media users who insist on ranting about tape delay every chance they get need to face the facts. The Olympics is no longer just about its original and core value of promoting amateur athletics – it is about endorsements, coverage, sales, and advertising – and that isn’t NBC’s fault, they’re just the messenger.

If you don’t want to know who won the race, get off Twitter.