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?

 


Ways Of Seeing

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by Chin Lu

 

In 1972, British author John Berger co-produced a BBC four-part series called “Ways of Seeing.” These TV programs created quite a stir at the time: Challenging the almost religious mystification of famous Western art, calling out misogyny in paintings and modern advertisements, and exploring what the reproduction of art and reality through photography mean. Soon the influential series was turned into a book—serving as an introductory art history or media studies textbook for many students around the world, including me.

In short, Berger urged each one of us to carefully view and think critically about the images we consume, whether it’s the historical symbolism in a Renaissance tableau hanging at the museum, the post-production manipulation of a print ad in a lifestyle magazine, or the legitimacy of a photograph in an online publication.

Earlier this year, Berger passed away at the age of 90 (RIP), but his work is still highly important: A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this current era of fake news and alternative facts, critical analysis of imagery is more crucial than ever.

Our strategy team revisited Berger by watching the TV programming in the span of a few weeks as a tribute. It was a great reminder of our responsibilities as professionals in the industry formerly known as advertising.

More and more consumers are demanding authenticity in advertisements: For example, there’s an increasing need and desire to see realistic imagery of products on “real women” instead of Photoshopped images of models with rare proportions—And they sell better, too! And for brands deciding to participate in cause marketing, they should expect to publicly provide transparency on how the company is walking its talk with action and internal changes.

Art is always political, and Berger taught us to contemplate the intentions of the image’s creator when viewing work, including ads. While I’m glad to see the recent increase of female empowerment in “femvertising,” it’s worth repeating again and again that diversity of representation both in front and behind the camera every step of the process is crucial for producing work that actually resonates with the changing population and mindsets of America: whose story is it to tell, who gets to tell the story, and who profits from the story are all factors that can no longer afford to be considered as afterthoughts in this politically significant time.

 


A Review of Planning-Ness SF: A Strategy “Un-conference” by Chin Lu

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Last week my coworker Wells Wallace and I attended the annual conference Planning-Ness for the first time. Originally meant for advertising and marketing strategists, recently it has expanded to cater to “creative thinkers and doers” at large. We were surprised that each speaker’s presentation is accompanied by group brainstorming and discussion, but leave it to strategists to have “work sessions,” amirite?

Below are highlights of this “un-conference”:

 

a beautiful constraintKicking off the event, Mark Barden took us through the big-picture ideas of his book “A Beautiful Constraint.” He provided us with real-life examples of how companies redirected potentially disastrous situations or problems into opportunities. Wells and I were delighted to re-hear a story about one of our clients: For the notoriously long Le Mans race, Audi knew their competitors’ vehicles were faster, so instead Audi kept their cars on the track longer with more efficient fuel and won.

Some of the re-frameworks he listed sound like they could work for dealing with life in general, tbh:

  • How could we break a pattern of decency on certain paths or elements?
  • What kind of questions could we ask to get additional information to help us think about the issue at hand from a different angle?
  • Could we remove or substitute something? What could we add to the process to change the outcome, whether it’s another person’s expertise, a new product dimension, or added service? What if we combine two seemingly irrelevant elements together?
  • What other form of resources are available for us to use? (A remedy for all the low-budget projects out there)
  • Really, what are we trying to achieve here? “Our job is to define the right level of ambitions for our clients.”

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Our favorite session has to be Ana Andjelic on modern luxury marketing started off with the statement of “fashion used to bring newness but now it is the tech world that brings innovation.”

Andjelic explains that old school luxury relies on namesake, logos, and fantastical brand universes to inspire desire, and it caters to those who have already achieved. On the other hand, modern luxury inspires people to achieve more by offering holistic wellness, fulfilling experiences, and seamless service power by tech integration.  Providing users intangible things like more time, autonomy, convenience, andexperiences are the new standards for modern luxury brands. While old school luxury is great for badging, modern luxury goes one step further with self-betterment and offering to improve one’s life in general.

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Douglas Atkin the global director of community at Airbnb is also a published author. While he didn’t go into details about all the religious cult leaders and members he researched, he explained the high-level concepts of “The Culting of Brands” with some tips on how to scale up 1-on-1 intimate relationships:

  • Find something either inspirational or problematic for a group of people to rally around
  • Building a community takes a long time to ramp up because commitment grows exponentially (This is a good one to bring up to manage client expectations)
  • In general, it’s not a good idea to pay someone to participate in a community
  • It’s impossible to make everyone join your community so focus on those who want in
  • Beware of “community fatigue” and try not to repeat with asks
  • If a group is for profit, provide transparency of benefits for both the community and the brand
  • If a brand betrays its community, it is very easy for love to turn into hate
  • Instead of kicking out violators of rules right away, try giving them a grace period and warn them of the consequences if they don’t comply by a certain time

For further reading and a video of Atkin’s speaking on the same subject: Link here.

IMG_2890Gabrielle Tenaglia’s talk on the evolving relationship between brands and consumers had three parts: Minecraft, Twitch, and “Modern Creators.” The common theme tying all three together is how digital users want to go beyond simply consuming content by influencing the content or even creating their own.

Minecraft started with no rules and an incomplete system on purpose for users to figure out and fill in on their own, and after conducting research, Tenaglia found that people actually spend more time on the content around the game than actually playing the game itself because users are curious to see what others have made and done.

Twitch is often compared to YouTube or other livestreaming platforms, but Tenaglia stresses the uniqueness of the community there. For example, many YouTube gamer stars trying making the transition to Twitch found the livecasting aspect emotionally draining and gave up.

Twitch should not be thought of as one giant community; instead, it is thousands of communities with different interests. The content creators there have no scripts and do no post-production edits so they adapt according to the viewers’ comments on the fly—This makes Twitch “living entertainment” instead of just “live entertainment.” One Twitch influencer Tenaglia interviewed has a team of 14 people working for him in order to maintain the quality and quantity of his content. On Twitch, users are able to watch for free so they pay really out of love for the community to sustain it.

In the same vein, Tenaglia referenced Kanye West’s recent album and “Doctor Who” as other examples of modern creators. “The Life of Pablo” was released as a version with intention to be updated often based on feedback just like software. “Doctor Who” is a TV show that uses fan theories and reactions as a source of inspiration for the plot. Personally I also would have been interested to hear about the trend of self-publishing in books as well.

Overall, Planning-Ness was an insightful and fun interactive event, and Wells and I were happy to see that majority of attendees were other women. Looking forward to seeing the conference grow and evolve in the future!

 


Launching the Anti-Bank in a Sea of Powerful Anti-(Actual) Banks

CHALLENGE
SoFi is a modern finance company, not a bank. They have members not customers and they operate in a fashion that is fundamentally unique to the finance category – a category that is dominated by large, traditional banks. Starting with limited awareness, we were up against some of the biggest media spenders in the world and many of these organizations already claim to be “anti-bank.” We needed to achieve mass awareness and understanding for an unknown brand’s products and unique positioning.
APPROACH
Our media plan was built around reaching scaled awareness and challenging mega banks through mass media while educating the target throughout their daily life.
SoFi’s “The Beginning of a Bankless World” phase started 2 weeks prior to the Super Bowl to generate buzz and anticipation of something larger to come.
We seeded the message in Broadcast TV, a #DontBank Promoted Trend on Twitter, digital & mobile high impact executions through Pandora, New York Times, CBS Sports and others on key dates, leveraged digital video with YouTube. We reached light TV viewers via Connected TV with YuMe and promoted content on social properties such as Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. We also took the message into the physical world by purchasing large format Outdoor in the Top 10 DMAs while projecting “The Beginning on a Bankless World” messaging onto building that were formerly banks. The message was even brought inside the banks by leveraging in-elevator placements targeting building of large Mega Banks. And finally, the messaging ran in Cinema prior to the movie “The Big Short” among others in select cities.
We then launched the brand campaign in earnest with Super Bowl 50. First ad break, C position. Forbes ranked SoFi as #1 for most viewers reached of any advertiser in the game. Comprehensive efforts surrounded the game in social with live content creation and consumer engagement.
The day following Super Bowl 50, fully integrated campaign launched. Notable elements included heavy Outdoor in the Top 10 DMAs, multiple mobile masthead takeovers on YouTube, a custom content series on Medium titled “The Future of Money”, integrations with popular sports properties such as ESPN & CBS Sports, streaming audio buys with Pandora & Spotify and integrations with podcasts such as Freakonomics, This American Life, Re/Code Decode and Bill Simmons.
The final peak of the campaign focused on Men’s NCAA Basketball with a sponsorship of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament as well large-scale efforts in March Madness. SoFi had a presence in almost every broadcast March Madness game and a spot in all March Madness Live Streaming games.
IMPACT
Early results are strong. In total the campaign has tallied over 1.6B impressions to date. We’ve seen sharp increase in brand awareness and favorability metrics and well as a significant uptick in SoFi business metrics such as registrations and loan starts.

Launching the Anti-Bank in a Sea of Powerful Anti-(Actual) Banks


CHALLENGE

SoFi is a modern finance company, not a bank. They have members not customers and they operate in a fashion that is fundamentally unique to the finance category – a category that is dominated by large, traditional banks. Starting with limited awareness, we were up against some of the biggest media spenders in the world and many of these organizations already claim to be “anti-bank.” We needed to achieve mass awareness and understanding for an unknown brand’s products and unique positioning.

APPROACH

Our media plan was built around reaching scaled awareness and challenging mega banks through mass media while educating the target throughout their daily life.

SoFi’s “The Beginning of a Bankless World” phase started 2 weeks prior to the Super Bowl to generate buzz and anticipation of something larger to come.

We seeded the message in Broadcast TV, a #DontBank Promoted Trend on Twitter, digital & mobile high impact executions through Pandora, New York Times, CBS Sports and others on key dates, leveraged digital video with YouTube. We reached light TV viewers via Connected TV with YuMe and promoted content on social properties such as Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. We also took the message into the physical world by purchasing large format Outdoor in the Top 10 DMAs while  projecting “The Beginning on a Bankless World” messaging onto building. The message was even brought inside the banks by leveraging in-elevator placements targeting building of large Mega Banks. And finally, the messaging ran in Cinema prior to the movie “The Big Short” among others in select cities.

We then launched the brand campaign in earnest with Super Bowl 50. First ad break, C position. Forbes ranked SoFi as #1 for most viewers reached of any advertiser in the game. Comprehensive efforts surrounded the game in social with live content creation and consumer engagement.

The day following Super Bowl 50, fully integrated campaign launched. Notable elements included heavy Outdoor in the Top 10 DMAs, multiple mobile masthead takeovers on YouTube, a custom content series on Medium titled “The Future of Money”, integrations with popular sports properties such as ESPN & CBS Sports, streaming audio buys with Pandora & Spotify and integrations with podcasts such as Freakonomics, This American Life, Re/Code Decode and Bill Simmons.

The final peak of the campaign focused on Men’s NCAA Basketball with a sponsorship of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament as well large-scale efforts in March Madness. SoFi had a presence in almost every broadcast March Madness game and a spot in all March Madness Live Streaming games.

IMPACT

Early results are strong. In total the campaign has tallied over 1.6B impressions to date. We’ve seen sharp increase in brand awareness and favorability metrics and well as a significant uptick in SoFi business metrics such as registrations and loan starts.


The Strategy Department: An Intern’s Story

By Kylie Han, our high school intern.

Kylie Han Intern at MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER

Hello, my name is Kylie Han. I’m 18 years-old, raised in the great city of Piedmont, California, and I had the fortunate opportunity of interning at MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER this past month. Aside from enjoying long walks on the beach, I love to play volleyball, swim and will be a part of the swim team at Wesleyan University next year. Although forced to start swimming at age 9, throughout my swimming career I have gained the best of friends, mentors, college acceptances and more importantly the values of hard work, dedication and team work. Since swimming has been very time consuming in my life, it made sense to me to keep it going so I also volunteer for a Special Olympics program called Sea Serpents where we help people with mental disabilities learn how to swim. Hence, when I was presented the opportunity to intern at an advertising agency, where there was no pool involved and something I have never done before, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I will be graduating from Bentley High School this week, and to document this transition, I cut off 15 inches of hair from my head and donated it to Locks of Love. The only thing better than this act of generosity is that I have had the best time interning at a highly respected and award-winning advertising agency in San Francisco. You could say life couldn’t get any better!

I have been so lucky to have traveled to many destinations. My favorites were Amsterdam and Iceland. So while at Bentley, I decided to take a course on tourism and learned all about how tourist sites are shaped to attract visitors to it. It was interesting to learn about how these sites are built to meet tourist expectations, such as by trying to make the site authentic through cultural appropriation, shaping it as a place subverting cultural norms and more. What I learned in class combined with my love for traveling made me very interested in how much advertising shapes my traveling experience. From interning at MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER, I observed how advertising is constructed to attract the consumer and the thought process behind it.

This past month has consisted of many BART trips, researching various subjects and sitting in on business meetings. Although tiring at some times, it has been so amazing and captivating to experience the real world of business and advertising in the Strategy department under the guidance of Rachel Gold, Senior Brand Strategist. So far I have been researching top trends in brands and customer service, ways to buy cars online as well as research on different MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER clients such as Annie’s Homegrown, Audi and more. I’ve enjoyed sitting in on business meetings and learning the importance of strategy and how all the departments and skill sets come together. It has been so fascinating listening to the Strategy department discuss the focus of the brand, its target, pointing out the flaws and necessities to reconfigure the brand to make it more attractive and popular to this generation. Although I’m entering college with my major as undeclared, I can confidently say that the world of advertising that MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER has exposed me to is definitely a path I could see myself pursuing. With this foundation from my internship, I’m excited for the years to come to see where I’ll end up. Thank you MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER for allowing me to experience the real world at the coolest agency ever!