The Sound of Silence… on Facebook

They always say that everything old can be made new again. On Facebook, we’re jumping back to the 1920s. One of the newest developments on the social platform is the rise of silent video. Before we cue Charlie Chaplin and bring back silent films of the early 20th century, let’s dig into the trend.

Hand holding smartphone with mute sound during concert

In a recent blog post, Facebook revealed some interesting information about viewers’ video-watching habits. According to the social platform, users watched more than 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day. To add to that, Digiday reported that as many as 85 percent of Facebook video views are silent.

Within the last couple of years, Facebook made videos autoplay in a user’s newsfeed – silently.

And that’s probably because Facebook also found that “when feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren’t expecting it, 80 (percent) react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser.”

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Advertisers, Let’s Mobilize!

I love my phone. I take it everywhere with me: meetings, the grocery store, the bathroom, everywhere! For many, our phones are part of our identities – so much so that we spend an average of 4.7 hours a day on them, according to Informate Mobile Intelligence. This might sound alarming to some (like my mother), but to marketers this should sound more like an opportunity to reach millions of people at just about any moment in their lives.

Mobile ad spends are expected to exceed $101 billion and make up half of digital ad spends in 2016, according to eMarketer. That means if you aren’t in the mobile game, your competitor probably is. And if you’re not top of mind, you’re not top of wallet. So where do you start?

Get to know the basics with a quick overview of the top mobile advertising opportunities:

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Lettuce Talk About Advertising and PR Agencies

It’s easy to accept something for what it is at face value. A tree is something to climb on. A cactus makes a great desk plant. A flower is something to pick that also happens to smell nice. And yet, there is so much more beneath the surface. A flowering plant is more than its petals; there are roots, a stem, leaves.

The same can be said for advertising and public relations agencies. At face value, they design banner ads, make TV commercials and write press releases. Like most things, however, there is much more going on behind the scenes.

As someone who works in the industry, I find it easy to focus solely on analytics. Our clients find it easy to focus on the department that they primarily interact with, most likely the account services team. But, like a flowering plant is more than its parts, an agency is more than just one department. To understand this, it’s important to comprehend the different functions performed by each department within an agency. For the sake of a metaphor, we can define departments and their functions with botany!

Green sprout growing from seed in organic soil

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Ridding the World of Ads: A Lesson from South Park

I have to come clean. I like watching South Park.

There, I said it!

Prior to this season, South Park has been purely one of my comedic reprieves for frustrations in current events, culture and politics. However, this season (Season 19) took on digital advertising and ad blocking, topics very near and dear to me.

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Ultimately, the user experience is the primary reason for utilizing ad blockers to stop interruptive ads and improve site performance, according to research by Teads presented by AdWeek. Sites that have mass amounts of clutter, interstitials, click-baits, no clear distinctions between editorial and advertising, etc. ruin the experience for everyone. No longer can you peruse sites without being forced into a slideshow about the top beach resorts or the secret foods that will help you lose 10 pounds in 10 days. I get it! I totally get it! It is annoying.

However, ad blockers can act as a wall to block all tracking links, including Google Analytics tracking, social media buttons, content marketing and ecommerce functionality that would otherwise improve my experiences on the sites I frequent. And that’s the rub.

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Banner Advertising – Is This ALL There IS?

My favorite sitcom these days is “The Goldbergs,” a 30-minute weekly view of the ‘80s based on a geeky movie-loving kid and his family. The episodes coincide with what is happening in 2016 and relate to what happened in the ‘80s. The last two episodes are an excellent example of product placements via custom programs. One focused on “Eddie the Eagle” the week after the movie of the same title was released, and the most recent covered “Dirty Dancing” days after the announcement of who would play Johnny in the remake of the movie by the same name.

Although “The Goldbergs” is a television show, the same revolution is happening in the digital space. So now imagine it’s 1994 and you open your web browser to read an interesting article. The page loads and what’s the first thing you notice on the page? Banner ads at the top of the page and down the side. You find yourself with greater interest in the products than the actual article and you click the banner to learn more.

Fast-forward 20 years, you open your browser to something of interest, only this time the banner ads fade into the background. They are a part of the page, and it’s an advertiser’s nightmare. No one is paying attention to your online ad placements that you paid to place.

Banner Ads - iStock_000023202160

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What Buzzfeed, Haven Beauty and IBM Agree On: SXSWi Discusses Tailoring Content

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Summarizing South by Southwest Interactive 2016 is no easy feat. In one corner, there were hackers chatting with NASA representatives and in another corner, there was the enticement of free jewelry from the Kendra Scott house. On one sidewalk, you could find a crowd waiting for Grumpy Cat pictures, while on the other side of the street there was a line to sit on the Game of Thrones Iron Throne. In each hour, there was the challenge to choose one of the 60 sessions available. At every moment during the five-day event, there seemed to be an infinite list of things going on. As someone who works in digital campaigns and primarily attended SXSWi’s Marketing and Branding events, however, it was clear to me that there was an unofficial theme tying the conference together.

If you take a big-picture look at South by Southwest Interactive, you are likely to find a recurring lesson of the weekend: how to tailor content for unique audiences. It’s a simple idea and one that most would agree is important. The application provided by SXSWi, though, is what makes this theme of adjusting content so significant.

microphone against the background of convention center

The first example we’ll look at comes from the session “Analytics in Social Media.” Amber Armstrong, Marketing Lead of IBM, discussed the key role of data analysis in determining best practices for different social media platforms. This brought to mind the everlasting debate on cross-posting. Cross-posting, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the postinɡ of a message, link, image, etc., to more than one online location.” To do so is to assume that best practices are identical across various social media platforms. This theory is disproven by one of Armstrong’s best practices listed during the session: in one day, you should not exceed two posts on LinkedIn, two posts on Facebook and 12 posts on Twitter. With this argument, a Facebook audience would feel flooded by cross-posting 12 posts from Twitter. On the flip side, two posts cross-posted from Facebook would be underserving a Twitter audience. Add to that the different platform’s requirements (i.e. 140 character limit on Twitter), it’s imperative that each platform have unique content to fit differing audiences.

The next example comes from the “Making Metrics Sexy: Finding ROI in the (Excel) Sheets” session, during which Erin Dwyer, SVP of Global Ecommerce and Social at Haven Beauty, and Meg Owen, Senior Digital Analyst at Edelman, discussed the challenges and solutions of delivering big data analysis to those who don’t instinctively know how to read the infinite numbers listed on any given report. For example, giving the CMO a detailed analysis that delves deep into the nitty-gritty of digital campaign data is not in your best interest. The CMO, in most cases, does not have the time or the need for such detail. The copywriters, designers, strategists and media planners, however, need this level of direct knowledge of each campaign program in order to optimize their performance.

Dwyer and Owen presented the executive report concept, which narrows down analysis for a quick and to-the-point presentation of data. This brings it down to five key metrics and three takeaways, all in bullet point format. If your audience seeks something between nitty-gritty detail and to-the-point bullet points, Dwyer and Owen suggested moving forward with the report card. The report card should contain top creative and industry news, key metrics and key takeaways. To ensure their utility, reports must be put together with the specific audience in mind.

Our last example is of a featured session presented by CMO/CCO of Buzzfeed, Frank Cooper. The session, titled “the Future of Media Companies,” discussed the ways in which culture has changed to become more receptive to authentic media versus ideal media and how that will affect the future of media companies. Essentially, people today respond more to what they can relate to, rather than what they aspire to. As Cooper stated, empathy and human connection are the new superpowers for building large audiences. With younger audiences moving into the market, this culture change becomes quite substantial. As part of the session, Cooper announced that Buzzfeed has launched a beta test of Buzzfeed Swarm, to take full advantage on its unique reach in an ad format. To reach new audiences, specifically Millennials and Generation Z, it is of the utmost significance to keep this new form of media in mind.

Whether it’s media, analytics or reporting, the audience is a key factor at play. Tailoring content for unique audiences, if nothing less, helps to ensure that your message is well received and will generate the response you intend.

Branding 101: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

We live in a world FULL of advertising. We constantly receive messages from brands on what to buy and why to buy it.

But these days, for consumers to choose one brand over another, the specifics about the product or service matter less. What really matters is what the brand is saying, how it says it and what it does to back that up. People aren’t only buying products or services anymore – they’re buying experiences and they want to buy from companies they trust.


At South by Southwest Interactive in March, many of the marketing sessions I attended followed a trend of encouraging brands to become better listeners and more authentic communicators.

The key to gaining the trust of consumers and getting them talking about your product/service is to take strides in becoming more human and more relatable. The first step is to become a better listener.

Be a Better Listener

Listen up! According to the “Analytics of Social Marketing” session at SXSW, a report by IBM and EConsultancy found that 81% of brands say they know what their customers want while only 37% of customers felt that brands understood them. So how can you build long-term relationships with customers or develop content for your audience if you don’t understand them? If you’re not listening to what your audience is asking or don’t know what they want from you, you’re only hurting your cause.

Here are a few ways to open your ears to your audience:

  1. Socialize: One of the best ways to listen to your audience is by finding out what’re they’re saying on social media. Are there frequently asked questions? Do you know how to answer those questions? What kind of content gets shared the most? And what kind of content creates the most engagement? Your competitors may talk about subjects that interest your audience so make sure you check their social profiles, too. Use your findings to modify your posts to produce content that generates more interest.
  2. Solicit feedback: Include a survey link on your website, receipts, emails or social media accounts to receive feedback from your customers. Use this information to make improvements in your communications and address your customers on a more personal level.
  3. Think outside the box: Interact with customers in your store, pick up the phone or hold a product/service demo. These actions allow you to interact with customers directly, adding a personal touch to your communication. For example, ask customers if they have questions about a product, what changes they would want to see, how they use it, etc.
  4. Walk a mile in their shoes: Check out your own website, test your products and read your blog, social media posts and press releases, and try to see all these from their perspective, not yours. If you find yourself turned off by what you’re saying, make changes immediately. According to TheGood.com, brands shouldn’t make consumers look and listen to content that disrupts them or disinterests them. In fact, the more time you save consumers from irrelevant content, the more they’ll love your brand.

Be Authentic

Be transparent and more human. A 2013 survey by Cohn and Wolfe Brands found that consumers around the world are demanding that the brands they use become more honest and more authentic in their communications.

You want to give customers a reason to feel good about doing business with you. Creating an authentic brand takes time, all the more reason to start now:

  1. Establish your brand identity: Levi’s, for example, ties its marketing activities closely to its history and values. The company’s advertising strategy is to highlight its legacy while its social media channels help raise awareness for causes it cares about. Know what your company stands for, know your company’s values and stick to them no matter what.
  2. Make decisions thoughtfully and stand by them firmly: According to the “Smart Ad Campaigns: Not about the product” session at SXSW,authenticity is best measured in actions. If your company chooses to tap into cultural and social issues like Pantene did in 2013, make sure it’s true to your brand DNA. A lot of criticism stems from wondering if a brand is being genuine or if they’re just hopping on the social issue bandwagon. Show your customers you mean what you say by reinforcing points in your campaigns and being consistent.
  3. Be more human: Companies need to speak like humans in order to build authenticity. If you engage your target in a relatable, down-to-earth way, you can get your message across without even showing your products/services. Consider using customer experiences to create authentic stories. You can ask customers to submit stories about how they’ve used your product/service and what it means to them. This will help your brand engage with and be supportive of your customers and their lifestyles without having to sell them something. Check out how Squarespace does this in their Field Stories ad campaign.
  4. Keep content fresh: Don’t repeat yourself. In order to sound more genuine, spice up your content by finding new things to talk about on social media and not solely advertising your brand offerings. At M/C/C, our social media posts follow the “Rule of Thirds.” Our philosophy is that content should be one-third promotional, one-third educational and one-third cultural. This means you should post some content about what you offer, provide links/videos to content that educates users about a topic and share content that engages and interests users.

These days, people don’t want to be marketed to – they want to be engaged with and they want companies to care about them. In order for your brand to succeed in the long term, you must start making strides now to becoming a communicator that meets the needs and wants of your audience.

Remember, you can always measure success by ROI, but sometimes it’s the things you can’t measure (i.e. emotional connections you make between consumers and your brand) that make the most impact.

What brands would you consider to be good listeners and authentic communicators? Comment below.

Who Did It Better? The Best and Worst Experiential Marketing Events at SXSW

SXSW Interactive is more branded today than it has ever been in the past. As a marketer, I was like a kid in a candy shop last month as I wandered the streets of Austin, Texas, trying to absorb all the marketing around me. It seemed as though everything at SXSW was branded in some form or fashion, and, while much of this branding came in the form of typical guerilla marketing or free swag, there were a few brands that had stepped up their game and took their SXSW marketing to a whole new level.

Samsung_Studio_LoungeBrands took over restaurants, bars and event spaces around the convention center, and some even built temporary structures for the week. The brands completely transformed these venues into immersive experiences for SXSW Interactive attendees with everything from product showcases to cocktail bars and buffets to lounges with stunning views of the Austin skyline. The brands did everything from repainting the interiors and exteriors to replacing the existing furniture and walls with their own. Most even replaced the name on the side of the building with their own logos and names. Marketers did all of this to facilitate innovative and memorable experiences for SXSWi attendees and to engage thought leaders in a live, experiential ways.

After visiting many of these, I could clearly see which were truly engaging with the attendees and creative positive associations between the consumers and the brand and which were missing the target. It all came down to whether the brand stayed true to itself and how well its execution aligned with the event. The two best examples were IBM and Samsung.

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Breeding Success at SXSW

sxsw-2016-platinumlogoHaving completed its 21st year, the SXSW Interactive conference has been around almost as long as M/C/C has, and that is impressive. Its hundreds of panel sessions cover a variety of topics from future trends to marketing and branding. For a full-service digital marketing communications agency like ours, this conference is a great source for insights, ideas and inspiration as well as validation for our employees.

Our agency has always been on top of new media, technologies and applications. We have proactive relationships with our clients, and they expect us to continually recommend new ideas and tactics that will improve their efficiencies and increase their ROI.

At M/C/C, we’re always looking for seminars and conferences that add value. Our employees get new ideas, and we pass those onto our clients through enhanced services and/or increased performance.

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