Successful Ads Require Talent

It’s so silly, it almost doesn’t feel like it needs to be said – but to make an ad that works, one must have talent.

Over the last few years, marketers have gone insane trying to figure out how to make a video, “viral.” They look wistfully at the Old Spice ads, and say, “See? We need to do something like that!” Then they proceed to turn out commercials that look like commercials, which no one wanted to see in the first place.

Here’s a great example of the good and the bad: The first is the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that was in wide rotation last year:

This ad gets the product information across but in a stale way. It smacks of laziness. “We got the job done, now let us get back to figuring out our ad buy schedule so we can ruin people’s evenings by forcing them to watch it.” The only time I remember people talking about it was to express how bad those 5-Hour Energy ads were.

Here’s the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that is running now.

Can you spot the difference? Sure, the production value on the newer one is slightly better – if only because there were more edits, meaning more shooting days, and they took pictures of the actor jumping out of a plane.

That’s not it, of course. The difference is the new commercial is FUNNY. The one before that is NOT.

In fact, the first commercial looks exactly like how a commercial is supposed to look: Lame.

"Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit right up and listen to what he's saying," said no one ever.

“Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit up and listen to what he’s saying,” said no one in the history of ever.

Like I said, the first commercial does what it is supposed to do: Inform you of the product, tell you what it does, and tell you why you need it. It also makes you hit the mute on your remote or go get a snack while you wait for “Big Bang Theory” to come back on, because you didn’t DVR it and so cannot get around this ridiculous commercial.

The newer one gets the same job done – but makes you want to watch it because it is funny. It might even make you share the commercial with your friends, increasing its audience.

Making a campaign or commercial viral isn’t something you get by reading enough blog posts (like this one) about it, or books by people who have declared themselves industry experts.

It is done by being talented – by knowing how to write something that is funny, or shoot something that is engaging. Selling the product isn’t forgotten, but it isn’t the most important aspect of the piece. Since no one wants to believe they aren’t talented, they write what they’ve always written – shrieking, intrusive ad copy – and hope for the best.

This can’t be that difficult of a concept to understand, can it? If you want to have content that sings, that makes people remember you, that gets shared far and wide, you need to hire writers and production staff with talent. Talented people can create something fun that still has the key message development and call to action required in a successful ad. This is true of all forms of advertising, mind you. Paid search ads, landing pages, radio spots, print ads… the level of impact is always increased dramatically when someone decides to significantly up their game.

The key is thinking of your content as something that should be entertaining. Otherwise you’re getting the work done of creating content, but you aren’t getting the job done.

By the way, that image I used above? I found that on Google. It had the title, “I want to punch the 5-hour energy guy in the throat.”

Yeah – I’m sure THAT’S the reaction the company was hoping for.

The Real Problem with Facebook Ads isn’t the Ads, it’s the Advertisers

When GM pulled their Facebook ads last month, it caused a lot of talk about the lack of confidence people have in their platform. When you plunk down $10,000 a month, you expect to make back at least $10,000.

What advertisers STILL don’t seem to understand, after all these years of exposure to social networks, is that nobody goes on them to buy things. If anything, people go to Facebook and Twitter for “me time.” Few people are going to leave their “me time” to click on a link to Verizon just because the link is there.

It’s like if television never had commercials, but instead all commercials happened on their own channel. How many people would ever leave the show they were watching just to tune into the 24 Hour Commercial Channel? My guess is about as many people who click on ads on Facebook.

Since this is the case, trying to use the same conversion point on a Facebook ad as, say, a paid search ad, is ludicrous. People who perform a search are looking for something specific, some problem to be solved, and if the paid ad is relevant and brings people to a product or service that helps them, they will “convert” – that is, buy something.

Facebook Ad Revenues Worldwide, 2011-2014

People don’t go to Facebook with a need or problem, though. Ads trying to sell goods must count not only on reaching people who are their target market, but happen to catch them at just that moment the ad will appeal to them. For example, someone might be the right fit for buying a car this year, but for the ad to turn into a sale, it needs to be seen by that person during those few days they are actually looking at cars and car financing. Facebook still can’t target ads that well.

So really, the definition of what makes a successful social network ad needs to be changed. On Facebook, it is much easier to convince someone to Like your Fan Page than to get them to immediately part with their money. Using ads to increase fan count would be a much saner way to grade Facebook Advertising: How many new eyeballs does your content get as a result of your ads?

Then it’s up to your Fan Page to land the sales, or at least get traffic to your site. If your content is compelling enough, people will click through to see more. In that way, the Fan Page becomes what Facebook always intended it to be: A company landing page, on Facebook.

Paid seach ads work (or don’t) based on a number of factors: If the keywords for the campaign are relevant to the product, if the ad copy is compelling enough to get a click, if the landing page entices people to click on the “buy now” button, and if the user experience of the site’s store encourages people to complete a sale.

The rules for Facebook are very different, but people keep trying to apply the same rules: Impressions, clicks, conversions, sales. What’s different here aren’t the tools, it’s the audience.

Viral Video isn’t about Advertising – it’s about Entertainment

I watched “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – it’s a guilty pleasure.

The only reason I’m writing about it is the challenge: They were asked to make a “viral video” promoting an O’Cedar’s spray mop. If you’ve ever had to do this for your job, it had to have pissed you off too.

It seems everyone thinks the way to make a viral video is to make a commerical like you see on TV, then put it up on YouTube. From that, possibly through magic or devine intervention, people will share it around.

Ironically, I found this image for "Viral Marketing" - and outside of me calling it out for stupidity, there is nothing viral about it.

“Sheila! I just watched this commercial for a floor mop on YouTube! You have to see this!”

Only Penn Jillette seemed to understand how viral content works: You make something people WANT to share. You don’t make something you want people to share.

How many of the things you shared, “educated you on the product?” Probably none. Because that’s boring. What you likely did share were people inuring themselves, pets doing weird things, dirty jokes… things that made you laugh.

That’s not where they went on Celebrity Apprentice, though. Both groups pushed on making what were the same kinds of ads you push past with the fast forward button, thankful that you have a DVR.

I dont’ blame them entirely, though – and not just because it’s reality TV, and you can’t trust anything you see or hear on reality TV. I blame the executives of the company for not have a clear idea of what they were asking for. I’ve had those meetings with clients who said, “there’s this video that’s very popular, and I WANT THAT.” Great! Yeay!

And then, “It should tell people all about our product, and showcase all of its features, it shouldn’t  be the butt of the joke, and it should tell them why they must give us their money… but otherwise, go crazy!”

It doesn’t work that way. A viral video that promotes only carries the name of the company or the product – and  then you go crazy. What makes something viral isn’t the sell, it’s the fun.

How much milage do you think the Nintendo Wii got out of the video below?

The answer is Nintendo got a LOT of exposure out of this. I can also guarantee you the executives of Nintendo would have never approved of that video if they paid an agency to make something viral, and this is what they were presented with. That disconnect exemplifies why a company cannot make it’s own viral content if they insist on taking themselves seriously.

I remember the executive of one company explaining everything they wanted in their viral program with the exact same language about showcasing a project.

“Then I’m afraid it won’t go viral,” I told him.

“Well then what can we do to MAKE it go viral?” he asked.

“There’s only one option,” I said. “We go door-to-door with shotguns and MAKE people watch it.”

Seriously – just spending some time coming up with something people will actually want to watch takes much less work.

Now THAT is how you do a commercial on YouTube!

As commercials uploaded to YouTube go, this is perfect.

No ad copy, no “take aways” – just something that gets your attention, and keeps you watching. At the end you get the company’s information, AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Look at the number of views this thing has gotten! It’s got 2,485 likes on YouTube… and as of this posting it’s two days old! You REALLY think your slick, in-house commercial with nothing but talk about your product is going to beat that!?!

MSNBC Commercials – A Smart Response to Right Wing Media

I am loving these commercials for MSNBC.

They have the obvious appeal of showing what are normally talking heads giving their real opinions of today’s stories. More importantly, they combat the very popular Fox News onslaught, which has gone unanswered for so long.

It shows MSNBC has teeth, particularly if you didn’t already know it. You may know Rachael Maddow has a point of view every bit as vitriolic as Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, but with the thought process behind that opinion.

Of course, if you have different political opinions, you won’t like these at all. But even if I wasn’t a raving pinko liberal, I’d appreciate the strategy of fighting the Right’s fire with their own fire.

Great YouTube Ad from Samsung

Here’s a great ad for the Samsung Galaxy S II. It’s great because it gets a lot of things done, quickly.

First, they manage to be offensive. That’s a good thing, because invariably you’ll get people who are easily offended to talk about it, and probably share it around. The end result of hysterical people is usually increased awareness – I’m sure Eminem sold a LOT more albums after all those Christians tried boycotting him in the early 00s.

Think the agency that created this isn’t aware of that? They have a paid placement for this video on YouTube, showing the frame with Jesus on a unicycle. It’s brilliant idiot baiting. Because this isn’t an American product yet – they are pushing it in the American market to let us know it’s coming. What better way to get some easy word-of-mouth than to get bunched up Americans bemoaning their ad?

More importantly, the offensiveness has a place in the ad. It isn’t just shocking for the sake of shocking, but works to show the clarity of their screen (even if it does look a little simulated) and at times creates a metaphor for what they want to say, like the Russian dancer “kicking ass.” We’ve had shock for the sake of shock so long, it’s no longer shocking. People actually demand a good reason for the shock given, or else they write it off as what it usually is – cynical pandering.

That isn’t what was done here, and I appreciate it. This moves fast, has a concept, and doesn’t trip over itself trying to be funny at the expense of their core message: “Our mobile product does a lot of stuff well, and looks neat.”

I’m Done with Social Media – Sort of

I’ve decided to stop posting about social media on this site. I obviously have nothing against social media itself, as I’ve crowed about it for years on this blog. Instead, I’m going to start posting more about marketing and advertising – the things you might want to know about once you have mastered all this new media.

Four years ago I started blogging for the advertising agency I worked for. They had two blogs – one for the agency proper, and one for the Interactive house. I was writing most of the posts, covering what was happening in Internet news and new media, but also in marketing, advertising, PR and traditional media.

When they told me to learn everything about what people were calling “social bookmarking,” that became a hot topic for both of our blogs. Our readers were hungry for information on the heretofore unheard of Twitter, MySpace, SecondLife… things that showed everyone the future was in progress.

That is no longer a problem, though. Just about anyone can get 1000 followers on Twitter, and once they do they usually use that as proof that they’re experts. There are so many bloggers writing about some arcane Facebook trick, there isn’t much of anything you can’t learn about Facebook with a quick Google search. And the number of stories telling you how you need a mobile app and QR code are legion.

However, there’s hardly anyone talking about communications, messaging, and how social media should be used to help your business. I see a lot of people showing their prowess at getting Likes and retweets and now +1, but then they fall short on how to turn these people into customers. It does not matter how neat all this new technology is if you can’t turn online fans into customers.

So there may still be some posts in the future about social, but from now on it will only be in the context of what you should say. I’ll also continue to post commercials I think do a good job of core messaging, and campaigns that work.

I think this is far more important than tips and tricks, and certainly a lot more enjoyable for me to write about.

Because if I have to write another post about how QR codes don’t work or how to get more Twitter followers, I’m going to pound nails into the floor with my forehead.

There’s no right way to do Social Media

Answer this question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

  1. A cab, if you can get one
  3. Practice

All of these are right. (Though that last one was more right back in the age of vaudeville.) It’s just a matter of what you mean, and where you’re coming from.

I read a lot of social media “experts” who tell of the “right” way to do social media, and it always cracks me up. They may have a way that works, or know of a company that killed with a particular approach… and then take the next step saying it is THE way to do social media marketing. 

When you hear that, you should be suspicious.

I can understand why they say this. There’s a huge market for people who can provide simple answers. Millions are still trying to figure out how to “make social media work for them,” so if somebody with a blog and a consulting business can step up and give it to them, they’ll get a lot of attention.

As someone who blogs about social media, of course, this could include me. I try not to give that level of sweeping advice myself, and instead focus on the things that people do wrong. Hell, I’ve buttered my bread with other people’s bad ideas for the sake of blog posts for years.

There are also plenty of people with good tips for success, and examples of campaigns that worked. When you see these, though, you have to take them in the context of the company and product that did them.

Old Spice’s success on Twitter and Facebook is a perfect – and common – example: Their success was based on an original and brilliant television commercial. If you mimicked everything Old Spice did on line but didn’t have that winning commercial, I don’t think you’d have the same success.

The only real advice anyone can give about social media is to do it a lot, experiment, and be fluid. (“Wha? Fluid? What the hell are you talking about?” Relax, I’ll get to it.)

If you’re consistently posting on that Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account, and you’re doing what you need to do to build a following, eventually you’ll get it. If you want that to happen faster, it’s going to cost you real money, likely in the form of an ad agency doing it for you.

As for being fluid, be sure you’re aware of what people are talking about, where they’re saying it, how they’re saying it… and keep up with them. The companies that scored big on Facebook are the same ones who learned how to use Myspace before it. The ones who succeeded in Twitter are the ones who learned the value of a hashtag and trending topics. Constant education is necessary in social media marketing – but the ideas for your campaign and your messaging will have to be your own.

Hey, you never know – over time you will get very comfortable with “thinking outside the box,” (which is the most insidiously inside the box expression of all time, but whatever,) doing your own messaging, and wielding these social media tools yourself. Then, you could be inspired to invent an approach no one else ever thought of, and force us to write blog articles about how brilliant you are.

Because there still aren’t any degrees for this stuff, and the majority of social media professionals are just guessing.

Welcome to the Facebook party, Tupperware – what the hell took you so long?

I admit I’m pretty snarky. When a company’s marketing is slightly off kilter, or completely off balance, or just plain stupid, I have to chime in.

Then there are times, like today, where I am so completely taken aback by what is before me I literally stagger trying to think of what to goof on first.

Last week, the New York Times did a story on Tupperware starting a social media campaign. Well, we’ve heard of companies doing this before – so what’s different here?

NOTHING! Not a single, solitary thing! Tupperware wanted to jazz up their brand’s image, so they decided to sprinkle a little magic social media dust on it and watch as it turns into The Dougie.

So how does The New York Times have space enough to write such a non-story about a company finally finding social media? Wasn’t anything else going on? It’s not like US Special forces shot Osama Bin Laden in the eye or anything… oh wait! US Special Forces DID shoot Osama Bin Laden in the eye! I’m pretty sure that effected the economy somewhat, didn’t it, New York Times!?! Even a little bit more than yet another company finding social media? Even if they did it about three years too late?

Just to make things worse, the NYT article didn’t include a link to Tupperware’s Facebook page. Perhaps they did this so they could say, “this isn’t an advertorial.” That’s a bad piece of luck for Tupperware, though. If you do a search for “Tupperware” on Facebook, you get a number of pages – none of them, apparently, Tupperware’s.

Because they got to the game so late, their own brand and several versions of it were snatched up by more enterprising people. If you want to get to Tupperware’s own profiles, either on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll need to use the button on their corporate site.

In other words, if you want to do them the favor of following their profiles, you need to leave Twitter or Facebook, then go to their site, then press the buttons that take you back to Twitter or Facebook.

The purpose of either of these sites is ostensibly to get you to follow a link from them to their website. So there’s not only added steps involved in becoming a fan, but one of them requires getting people to do something they weren’t planning on doing anyway. Yikes.

Oh! Something else – here’s a great blurb from the aforementioned article:

“The goal is to find ‘more disruptive methods’ to dispel perceptions that ‘we are your mother’s Tupperware,’ said Rick Goings, chairman and chief executive of Tupperware Brands in Orlando, Fla.”

To prove this point, today they posted this:

"Tupperware is Made for MOM's!"

So this isn’t your mother’s Tupperware – it’s just that Tupperware was made for Mom’s. That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Finally, after their unprecedented NYT article, the number of people who have Liked their page is 8611 as of this writing. A nearly 100 year old, world-famous company, with a write up in the New York Times, only has some 8600 fans.

And don’t get me started on their Twitter account! There, the name is TupperwareUS – not TupperwareUSCA, which may be confusing to people who know of one and are trying to find the other. But we’ve all got to make a stand against Canada some time, and Tupperware seems to be making it on Twitter. Facebook is for US and CA, but Twitter will just be for the US. I guess. I’m not sure. It’s all a little too poorly thought out for me to get all at once.

But again, great success – because they now have 186 followers on Twitter.
Welcome to the party, Tupperware – you’ve got a LOT to learn.