Trolls, Engagement and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: 5 Things We Learned at SXSW 2017

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by Jessica Bedussi

 

Each year, advertisers, brands and technologists flock to SXSW for sessions and parties. In the midst of all the free booze, BBQ and endless amounts of swag are a lot of really smart people with really smart things to say, offering attendees new ways to think about advertising, social media, technology and platforms.

 

Here are 5 tidbits from SXSW we’re taking home with us:

 

  • Don’t go after engagement just for engagement’s sake

 

The days of text-only Facebook posts, forums, and organic reach are long gone in the social media realm. This doesn’t mean authenticity has gone with them. Consumers can and will call out brands pushing inauthentic messaging or grabbing for likes and shares. During, “Contemporary Curation: How Imagery Shapes a Brand,” David Moon of BazaarVoice put it best, “Engagement for engagement’s sake is one of the first flaws in a campaign.” Every post is an opportunity to forge a relationship with a new consumer or create a brand advocate out of a loyal customer. Authenticity and genuineness are essential in both reactive and proactive content.

 

 

  • Don’t feed the trolls unless you have something to shut them up

 

Trolls are anyone who positively or negatively affects the norms of a social community. If you’re a community manager, you are most likely familiar with the effects of trolling. During the “Trolls: To Feed or Not to Feed” panel, Alicia Trost, Communications Manager for Bay Area Rapid Transit shared two questions her team asks when deciding whether or not to engage with trolls:

  • Do we have an answer?
  • Can we add value or offer a resolution?

Shining a spotlight on a troll with a copy/paste answer or wishy-washy response will only feed him or her more. The only way to neutralize a troll is with facts and humanized responses.

 

 

  • 65% of consumers watch TV heads down

 

During “This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads,” neuroscientist Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia stated 65% of consumers are heads down on mobile devices while watching TV. Second screen extensions and live coverage of televised events can be an essential way to connect with your audience via social. Knowing viewers are often distracted by the second screen can be discouraging for TV advertisers, but there’s a silver lining: it can help them create more commanding TV ads.  Dr. Garcia-Garcia recommends an attention-grabbing sound that snaps users’ attention back to the first screen.

 

 

  • Experiential gets attention at festivals

 

Along with digital activations, brands capitalized on real-world events, and attendees flocked to brand activations throughout the conference. HBO set up elaborate “Escape” games for a variety of its programming. Casper offered bookable napping rooms complete with Casper mattresses and cookies & milk. AMC set up a pop-up Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant to promote “Better Call Saul.” Hulu creeped everyone out with dozens of handmaids roaming downtown Austin to promote “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

 

 

  • “Echo chambers” is the new buzzword

 

Each year has a buzzword or phrase. This year, it was “echo chambers.” It seemed like in nearly every session someone referenced the idea of online bubbles, where our own opinions and ideas are reflected back to us as a result of social media algorithms. While many cited Brexit and Trump’s election as negative effects of this phenomena, others offered solutions to fix the problem. During “Echo Chambers: Healing our Social Media Algorithms,” Claire Woodcock offered Netflix recommendations as a shining example of how to introduce users to different content with similarities. The idea is to find themes in content and then use those themes to position a different viewpoint in a way that is still appealing to users. Overall, it’s clear both media companies and the advertising industry are thinking of ways to burst these bubbles and widen our perspectives.
What did you find surprising/interesting/shocking at #SXSW this year?

 


This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads. How Neuroscience affects Advertising.

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by Jessica Bedussi

There’s no better way to entice a group of advertisers than with a “This is your brain on…” joke. This is exactly how I ended up in one of my favorite #SXSW sessions where two neuroscientists, Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia (Advertising Research Foundation) & Dr. Aaron Reid (Sentient Science Center), and Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight US, discussed the “non-conscious” decision-making of consumer purchasing behavior.

I scoured through my 8 pages of notes from the session and picked the most jaw-dropping statistics to share.

 

Only 38 percent of campaigns use creative customized for each platform

It sounds like common sense, but common sense is very often ignored. Dr. Garcia-Garcia shared the results of a Millward Brown study that the neural pathway to great creative is cross platform, with a unified message, and custom execution on each platform.

While cohesive campaign messaging is essential, users consume content differently depending on where they are. The enrapturing effect of a TVC is lost when viewed within the Facebook NewsFeed. In fact, a study showed that the same spot on TV and mobile was 50 percent less emotionally engaging to consumers viewing on mobile.

Each social platform has distinct audiences, capabilities, and community rules. The easiest way to shoot a creative campaign in the foot is to plaster the same creative on every platform with no customization.

 

95 percent of consumers say ads don’t affect their decisions

LOL. Most of the effects of advertising happen within the subconscious, meaning the everyday consumer believes they’re immune to advertising’s influence. This explains why emotional advertising can be effective.

As Dr. Reid put it, “We don’t want to know how you feel about an ad, we want to know how an ad makes you feel about a brand.”

 

Long-term memory encoding is the most important factor in predicting purchase intent

Layman’s terms: People are more likely to buy what you’re selling if they can recall your brand long-term.

One of the most crucial ways to do this is to align your brand with your target audience’s core values. It’s simple: People like brands they can relate to.

Above this is a simple reminder: Know your audience.

Individual brains respond to ads differently. Yadav recalled Mountain Dew’s 2016’s Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl spot as a prime example. Women overwhelmingly responded negatively to the spot, but males aged 18-35 (the brand’s target audience) loved the commercial and brand.

Neuroscience research is an important and fascinating element of advertising.

TL;DR: Customize creative for each platform, connect emotionally, and know your target audience.


Echo Chambers: The Phrase on Everyone’s Lips at #SXSW 2017

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by Jessica Bedussi

SXSW 2017 is upon us, which means thousands of advertisers, techies, and industry thought leaders swarm to Austin, Texas for “nerd Spring Break.”

 

While there are dozens of panels ranging from the future of Snapchat to the effects of VR — and even one where the attendees watch a grown man eat chicken for an hour — one buzzword kept leaving people’s lips: echo chambers. Whether it was Imgur’s founder, Alan Schaaf, discussing the lack of an echo chamber in his community, behavioral scientists blaming cookies (not the fun kind) for the phenomenon, or neuroscientists describing the effects on our brains, the term seemed to be omnipresent.

 

One of the more valuable sessions on echo chambers was from Claire Woodcock, a digital strategist at Razorfish London, who took the buzzword a step further by analyzing its origin, effects and potential solutions.

 

What exactly is an echo chamber?

If you work in social media advertising, algorithms have most likely kept you awake since 2010, when Facebook introduced its newsfeed algorithm Edgerank. Since then, this mathematical formula has evolved into a machine-learning algorithm that prioritizes and presents content to users based on a list of factors like what they have engaged with, what groups they’re a part of and other macro factors like the type of content Facebook is prioritizing at the moment.

 

All this means that Facebook users are given a narrow view of the world that reinforces their existing values and beliefs. We start to exist in online communities where we shout our opinions and have the same ideas reflected back to us. We don’t have to deal with disagreements or differing points of view. This doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but when we realize 62% of people get their news from social media and 28 percent of those people use it as their main source, the idea becomes much more sinister.

 

How are echo chambers made?

Facebook uses their algorithm to learn what you like and what you don’t like. Woodcock put this in relatable terms with examples of cute puppies and kittens. For instance, let’s say you’re a dog person. You scroll through your NewsFeed and see this cute photo of a pug and give it a like.

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You continue browsing your NewsFeed and see a photo of a cat. Cats don’t excite you so you keep scrolling until you stumble upon another cute dog photo. This one is so cute it deserves a comment. *hearteye emoji*

Facebook takes these actions and learns you like dogs and continues to give you exactly what you want. The platform decides you prefer dogs to cats and stops showing you images of cats knowing you most likely won’t engage with them.

 

This is where the echo chamber starts to form. You’re not exposed to cats or cat people anymore and are instead living in a bubble where dogs, and those who love them, are the only things that matter.

 

Put this into today’s terms and it’s much easier to understand why some people were so surprised when Brexit or Trump’s election occurred and how fake news has become so rampant. When someone who dislikes Obama sees several reputable articles they disagree with, the Facebook algorithm can prioritize a fake news site with similar negative sentiment. Since this individual already dislikes Obama, it’s much easier for this to seem like a reputable source.

 

We start to exist in a polarizing world where truth doesn’t matter — what matters is being right. We stop talking to each other. We stop learning different perspectives. And everything that makes public discourse so important and valuable starts to go away. As Woodcock put it, “social media is a disruptive communications technology.”

Who do we blame and how do we solve it?

It’s Facebook’s fault, right? Not entirely. This problem is much more widespread than that, and solving it will require more than just Facebook tweaking its algorithm.

 

What needs to happen is more opinion diversity so we’re all exposed to different perspectives and opinions.

 

Woodcock proposed that Facebook take a page from Netflix. To get users out of their comfort zone, Netflix finds themes in content that users view and suggests different media with similar themes. For instance, after watching “Chef’s Table,” Netflix recommends I watch “Abstract: the Art of Design.” The real world example given during the session was to show a conservative news story that appeals to both conservatives and liberals. Instead of a polarizing headline like “Mexicans are coming for our jobs,” the language is massaged so liberals are more likely to click on the link: “What makes crossing the border appealing for Mexicans?”

 

The idea is to slowly and subtly introduce different viewpoints into the NewsFeed instead of regurgitating the same thoughts and ideas.

 

We can point fingers and place blame all we want, but we can all agree: something must be done to burst these bubbles.
How do you think we can solve the echo chamber problem?


Consumer Electronics Show 2017

A Strategy Director, a Creative Director, and a robot walk into a bar…

We sent some people to CES. We asked them to keep our social editorial team up-to-date and report back with any observations, breakthrough cultural insights, and exciting tech.

We know the real interesting stuff in tech and marketing happens behind closed doors, but here’s a clear, concise, and hopefully compelling recap from the floor, broken down by the most popular topics represented.

1. VR

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Remember those 4D motion theaters at theme parks, boardwalks, and malls? Looks like they are about to be replaced with VR roller coasters. Or maybe this is 2017’s hottest experiential marketing tool. Either way, sit down, but no need to buckle up, you’re not actually going anywhere.

2. Robots

 

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David & Joel like this robot. It seems cool. Not sure what it does.

CES had a lot of robots. You can read about some of them.

 

3. Self-Driving Cars

The Verge tells us that Nvidia is working with Audi to get self-driving cars on the market by 2020.

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Audi was not alone as major manufacturers show off their autonomous driving tech. See real life photos from our boots-on-the-ground.

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