I’ve touched on this in the past, but I do love a good outdoor ad, particularly the ads in the London Tube. Okay, some of them aren’t so hot, but occasionally I find one that I think has done a good job. And most recently, it’s this one.
When I highlighted the “Beware of Pick-Packets” McDonald’s ad, I focused on how important it is for an ad to be aware of its surroundings and use them. In the McDonald’s case this meant referring to a common reference that viewers would know. The Economist is also referring to outside events that make it relevant to viewers, but in a less localized fashion. Plus it isn’t funny.
But that isn’t my only criteria for a good Tube ad. The Economist is using the ads to their full capacity in a number of ways. First off, it’s not a picture. These ads use the fact that people standing on Tube platforms are all bored. But this isn’t a novel approach to Tube ads. Practically all of them do this. No, what I like is that these ads are each two ads side by side. This probably cost quite a pretty penny but it is a very effective use of space.
When I first saw the ads, I only saw one of them. I simply hadn’t noticed the sister ad hung up right next to it. I was shocked. Yes, there are people with those political views, but do you ever see them shouting about their ideas in a Tube ad? Not really (except during election time, maybe).
Then I saw the other one. Just as partisan but in an opposite color scheme. I got the message loud and clear: the Economist tells both sides of the story. And that makes it a good ad. What makes it better is that when these ads first appeared (or I first noticed them), the Economist had folk handing out free copies of the magazine at Tube entrances.
But I do have to wonder about the demon panda.
Do you get the feeling that you don’t actually talk to people anymore? I do, sometimes. From conversations with family to chats with friends or coworkers, I tend to type my messages rather than just pick up a phone. Even when I’m not in front of a computer, I SMS, BBM, or type a straight up e-mail rather than call. All of those on my phone, of course, an item once thought of as a device to facilitate speech.
I tell myself that I ping people before calling because I don’t want to interrupt them. After all, particularly at work, they are busily concentrating on other problems. But I also do this with my family. Though I live across an ocean from my brother, I can easily call him. He has a Skype phone. That said, I tend to text him, right within the Skype application. He’s not busy. I’m not terribly busy. We could talk. But we don’t. We text. Hell, I’ve done this with my brother when he was just sitting on the other side of the couch from me. Reason we gave? My mother was between us and it was just easier to type than lean forward. Even at the time I thought it was a lame excuse.
This goes on more than I like to admit. More than I like to think about, actually. Virtual interaction is, indeed, with real people. I firmly believe that people are people, even if I only know them by a Twitter handle, so my friendships with them are just as strong as with people I have met in real life in similar circumstance, say at a networking event.
But what does it say about our culture that there are individuals who prefer to text or IM than use a free program like Skype that allows both voice and image? With a text only interaction, we can multi-task. When a person is in front of us, even as a video image via Skype, we have to pay attention or risk being rude. It means we can’t multi-task. We have to narrow our field of focus to the individual in front of us. Pay attention to someone else. People are now so used to multi-tasking that they are not ready and willing to devote the necessary attention to the person in front of them, or to welcome that kind of singular interaction. Yes, sometimes we’re working, but couldn’t we continue the work after the talk? Or answer the phone with a smile, explain the situation, and call back later? That’s what people used to do.
I don’t think that we are becoming only virtual. People still like to go out together, do things together. That’s why they’ll download music illegally but pay a premium to go out to a concert with friends. But the fact that when we have the option and opportunity to go for a face-to-face interaction we opt for text is a bit worrying.
What is your experience?
I love outdoor advertising. I know I might just be the only one in London who does, considering how often I hear people complain about Tube ads, but I do. Maybe because I am a marketer.
I am a bit picky about the ads I like, though. I have a main requirement for all advertising I see, outdoors, print, digital, or otherwise. It must fit in the context of the situation. If I am reading a magazine, then a great ad would do more than just recognize my demographic and general interests. It would play with the medium. And if I am in a London Tube, it should understand that context, too.
That’s why I love this ad.
It was shown in my local Tube station for about a month, and each day it made me smile, and maybe reminded me not to wave my smartphone around. I highly doubt that the creators of this ad were trying to make a public service announcement. Rather, I think that they had gotten tired of the ubiquitous “What your valuables” notices that are scattered around all the London Tube stations. They decided to have some fun. And because they weren’t the only ones who were tired of those notices, the audience got a smile, maybe even a chuckle, out of the ad, too.
I am not the only one who liked them, either. Here are some quotes I found with a simple search for “Beware of Pickpackets.”
“On the billboard side of things, the latest McDonalds adverts are really great and generate a real ‘smile in the mind’.” – Payne by Name
Of course, there’s another insight that went into this ad: that everyone likes to steel fries. That’s the part that makes us want to hit the nearest McDonald’s come lunch or dinner.
Content Publishing Is Hard
One of the hardest things about inbound marketing is coming up with content, particularly content you hope will rout into sales. The problem is, as Mitch Joel points out at Six Pixels of Separation, marketers want to publish about their goods. We’re like those two men selling fruit. We need to unload our product. The entire point of publishing content is to help us do this. But if all we do is egotistically tout our wares, we’ll bore our readership and they will never come back. Worse yet, we won’t make a sale.
There are a few ways to go about content marketing successfully. You could be like Hubspot, which publishes tips and research like a stripper takes off her clothes. Not all of it, just enough to get you to really want more. Or you could be like Joel, who writes more like a journalist, commenting on industry developments. Either way works; neither is easy. Other strategies are popping up all over.
But not everyone can publish the same stuff. Most of the rules of thumb are agreed upon by this point, and though there is still plenty of debate in our industry, there is not really enough for everyone – all the freelancers, contractors, consultants, and organizations – to each have a large audience. There will be some, like Hubspot, who get the audience, leaving smaller firms without.
Hiring Journalists Could be the Answer…
Joel suggests that companies should hire a journalist to publish for them, hopefully creating interesting content that doesn’t just laud the company’s goods or services. This is a pretty good idea, encouraging companies to focus more on the industry than their own profits.
If you look at Joel’s blog, that’s pretty much what he has done. His blog is called “Six Pixels of Separation by TwistImage,” TwistImage being his company. This is something like a sponsorship with the corporation providing hosting. This is probably why he is suggesting that companies that have difficulty cutting out the hard sell from their blog copy should hire a journalist and adopt this set up. He says, “Maybe the reason this Blog has some level of success is because it’s more like journalism than it is about what Twist Image offers and sells (I prefer to write relevant articles about this industry).” The only thing that challenges this rosy picture is that Joel actually is the President of TwistImage.
…But I Disagree
I would argue about what success means in this context. It seems Joel is taking success to be a large readership. To me a corporate blog is not about the industry, it’s about the corporation’s take on that industry, their perspective and point of view. When job seeking, this is one of the first places I go to see what the company is like. When looking at potential business partners or service providers for clients, the blogs help me judge possible synergies. The number of readers is irrelevant compared to the quality of the leads. Six Pixels of Separation is valuable to TwistImage precisely because it is written by Joel, the company President. The blog shows how he understands the industry, a valuable insight and selling point for possible clients.
If a company hires a journalist, they are really publishing a small magazine or sponsoring a blog. This is advertising, and like advertising, the goal is to get in front of as many people as possible. The company may be better off purchasing sponsorships in existing publications. In Joel’s version, the journalist is taken to be unbiased in order to establish industry street cred, but it’s easier to piggy-back off of someone who already has established credibility, potentially multiple someones. And it would probably be a bit cheaper, too.
This past week I went to the Econsultancy Future of Digital Marketing event. The speakers spoke on everything from online video to publishing to community management. We had around 15 individual speakers taking us through the now, next year, and then “beyond.” Talks ranged from about an hour long to 7 minutes.
But there were some highlights and a general pattern emerging from the talks. First the highlights.
Top 3 Best Speakers
Before I name names, let me clarify, there was a lot of great stuff presented during the event. For the sake of space, I’m just picking three, in order of appearance.
Alex Gisbert from Expedia: Alex spoke on e-commerce, one of the most pressing topics today. I enjoyed his talk for two reasons.
- Alex did not talk about website design, he talked about widgets. He was talking about the open API but in a way that you didn’t have to speak techese to understand.
- Like many speakers, he spoke about his company, showing off. Unlike many speakers, when he showed off, it was useful for us as the audience and not just good publicity for Expedia. He made his company into a useful case study.
Alex’s message was also simple. He basically told us that if we needed to sell something, we shouldn’t care where it is sold. Expedia has Expedia Everywhere, where they allow third parties to embed their open API into many other websites so that users can make their travel plans wherever they are on the web. Apparently, Expedia is already getting most of their traffic from embedded widgets on other websites. Now they just have to do more.
Dave Wieneke @usefularts: Dave is an entertaining speaker, which did his ideas justice. His message, again, was rather simple: the internet, and content, is everywhere, so we should not be restricted by platform. Examples he used included a Mercedes iPad app that allows salesmen to close the deal right inside the vehicle, even signing. He also pointed out that 22% of all fixed line traffic during prime time goes to NetFlix in the US. Not too shabby.
Part of this movement away from fixed-platform utility is the rise of the mobile. Dave pointed out that Pandora, the American Spotify, receives 2/3 of its sign-ups directly over mobile. In France, you can even shop and pay by smartphone in a Group Casino grocery store.
Internet is everywhere, so we can now expand past the original platforms for our services. The usual example is for publishers, but I enjoyed Dave’s service-oriented approach.
Emma Jenkins @emmajenkins: The previous talks I’ve highlighted were rather lengthy, but Emma’s was only 7 minutes. She tackled virtual goods, a rather complex and doubted area even within digital marketing, in those 7 minutes. That takes talent and guts!
She organized her talk in a very simple and classic method – she spelt the word “Virtual” with the first letter of each of her points. But they were good points. So good, I’m actually just going to list them.
Value: Though we may not understand it, people plop down real money for virtual goods.
Investment: People are collecting these items, and prices are rising. They are investment pieces!
Real: So what if they are pixels? They are still rather real to those who buy them.
Two point one billion: the estimated amount to be spent on virtual goods next year.
Universal: No one demographic is buying them. It’s everyone.
Affordable: They are priced so everyone can get in on the action.
Legitimate: And all of this makes it a legitimate business space.
I enjoyed Emma’s speech. It kept me engaged, partly because of her simple format. But it also supports the idea. I can understand the doubters. Though I was familiar with the subject before Emma’s talk and knew that it is a lucrative market, I still felt that it’s a bit weird to spend money on pixels of World of Warcraft gold. And I played World of Warcraft. But after hearing Emma’s explanation on why my personal preferences don’t matter, I’m sold. I still doubt I’ll buy a virtual tractor, but I won’t laugh at those who do.
The Big Theme of the Day…
…was mobile, or at least not being married to a platform. You might have guessed this from my first two highlighted speakers, but it was heavily prevalent in many other talks, some of which were entirely about the future of mobile. We even had a talk on augmented reality by King Yiu Chu of Layar.
More than just mobile, however, the idea was that your service, whatever it is, be accessible regardless of the platform. For instance, another speak, Andy Hobspawn, spoke on the Internet of Things. This isn’t really about mobile so much as everything being connected. Even online video was linked to mobile with the potential to view it everywhere, on multiple devices.
And that’s what I took away from the event. That even if you have a website, make sure that your website is viewable on non-PC devices and perhaps via other website, and provides a service in those places. It’s a simple idea, but after living in a website-world for a while, it’s a rather big one.