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Back in March, I published my first post on crowd-sourced advertising. My focus then was on Ford and Coca Cola’s novel efforts in co-creating advertising campaigns and branded content with their respective target audience.

I am pleased to say that since a few more advertisers have come out of their shell, gone the extra mile to successfully evolve (if not reinvent) the crowd-sourcing game with their consumers. Here are those that have stuck with me specifically.

In July 2013, Lexus released its LexusInstafilm.

In a nutshell, the advertiser invited 212 instagrammers to collaborate on the shoot of a promotional film for its 2014 Lexus IS model. The film was to consist of instagram shots only (all individual shots can be seen here). The shoot was planned like a military operation, with nothing left to chance, as the video below shows.

This was a one of a kind opportunity for the Lexus car lovers, creative types and Instagrammers who were lucky enough to be able to participate into the making of an ad for a brand they admire and aspire to.

Incidentally, the making of the film and final output are brilliant pieces of advertising for Instagram also – which makes me wonder what their contribution to this project might have been in $ or otherwise…

In August, Nissan’s #JukeRide project took crowdsourcing to a new level by inviting motorsport enthusiasts and social media fans to help co create a new car focused on improving the performance of Nissan’s Nismo team of drivers.

Ideas for new car features were captured via social media and also in person via brainstorms with ex-Formula 1 driver & brand ambassador Johnny Herbert and his team of engineers. In the end, more than 3,000 individual ideas were contributed to the #Jukeride product by over 1,000 fans. A social experiment that ladders up wonderfully to Nissan’s tagline: Innovation that excites.

Harley Davidson is notorious for pioneering crowd-sourced advertising. A few years ago, with the help of a crowd-sourcing specialist agency, it launched its Fan Machine – a Facebook app that crowd-sources campaign ideas from the brand’s fans. Its 2012 ‘Stereotypical Harley” campaign was one of the successful outcomes. Recently, they revealed they had extended their crowdsourcing strategy to product development with Project Rushmore. Their latest range of bikes is the result of a collaboration with riders and fans of the brand, as reinforced by the “Built by all of us. For all of us” tagline.

Lastly – my 2 favourites:

The award-winning “Perfect Lager Project” – a product launch campaign for winemaker Casella Wines that kicked off without the product per se. The campaign idea was indeed to use crowdsourcing to identify what made the perfect beer from Aussie beer lovers, which Casella would then brew for them. This was a clever way of standing out from the fierce local competition and overcoming the winemaker’s late entry to a very crowded market.

And –

As part of its Hollywood & Vines campaign, Airbnb has just released a short film made entirely of crowd-sourced vines – a first in the art of film-making. 750 viners participated by submitting their selected shot via Vine and Twitter (nice corporate tie-up here); 100 vines made it to the final cut that screened online and on Sundance channel.

This is how it all started:

The end result is truly magic, beautifully stitched together and a real prowess considering how challenging the app’s time constraints can be.

Given the diversity of crowdsourcing initiatives (from co-creating a car or a bike through co-brewing a beer to co-making an ad, a film or a song), it makes me wonder:

Is there anything that can’t be crowd-sourced these days?

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Let us take a look at Target and General Electric… What could they possibly have in common?

I have been a fan of Target’s innovative marketing techniques for some time; whilst GE has just made it to my Top 10 all-time favourite marketers.

Neither brand is what one would say sexy or aspirational i.e. not in the same vein as a Nike or a Red Bull. Yet their content marketing efforts are in my view amongst the best, if not the most hyped.

Simply, both companies’ content plays are great examples of how to build relationships with consumers through meaningful content – relationships that eventually drive sales. The last point is not to be underestimated as mentioned in an earlier post.

What is it Target and GE are doing well then in the content space? What can we learn from them?

First, they aren’t afraid of experimenting with new technologies and getting out of their comfort zone.

The first time Target piqued my interest was in October 2012, when I came across their ‘Falling For You’ shoppable web series.

They had then hired an Emmy award-winning TV director and Hollywood talent to film 3 episodes of an online rom-com, which was to be a promotional vehicle for their Fall collection. Products (from women fashion wear to homewares) were cleverly placed in each episode and could be shopped effortlessly throughout the online viewing experience. The technology that allowed you to buy as you watched without pausing the film was claimed to be a first and certainly caught my attention at the time. You can find out more about Falling For You in their (promotional) behind-the-scenes video:

Meanwhile, GE have been experimenting with real-time marketing and campaign hashtags on Twitter amongst other social platforms; with its #IWantToInvent and #PiDay campaigns in particular attracting a lot of attention.

It is also (surprisingly) one of the early adopters of Vine and so far it is doing well with it: its #6SecondScience Fair campaign launched only a few days ago has already generated 20K+ social interactions on the young network as it invites users to submit Vines of their DYI-style science experiments alongside its own, like this one on how to create your own lava lamp. Entertaining and captivating at the same time.

The brand’s bold marketing approach was recently acknowledged on Creativity-online.com.

Both brands have invested in content hubs to tell their stories.

Target’s online magazine A Bullseye View launched over a year ago and deliberately stays clear of hard-sell messages; instead it focuses on the company’s behind-the-scenes stories (e.g. designer partnerships). The site is heavily branded and as such, unequivocally positions the brand as the publisher.

GE has opted for the more discreet position of ‘Sponsor’ with its online magazine Txchnologist, one of 2 blogs the company operates and that focuses on non-corporate news. The site is a Tumblr blog about technology, science and innovation across the various industries the giant corporation is involved with (e.g. energy, transportation, heath care etc.).

Both have complemented their content strategy with an influencer program to boost their credibility and relevance.

Target has more than a dozen Fashion bloggers on its books, who write ‘Target-inspired’ posts on their blogs and also contribute to A Bullseye View. Likewise, GE’s Txchnologist features guest contributors and writers.

Lastly, they are outsourcing the bulk of the content creation to agency partners.

Whilst Target’s A Bullseye View is run by Target’s PR team, GE’s content marketing and social media team is responsible for operating Txchnologist. Both teams are understood to be on the small side, primarily focused on the site development strategy and operations, with the creative execution (content creation) sitting with agency partners. Brands and agencies meet weekly to discuss and plan the editorial content.

Interestingly, the 2 brands are ticking a few of the pre-requisites outlined in my earlier post on best practice content marketing.

I will continue keeping an eye out on their progress in that space and will keep you posted on their next (bold) moves.

I recently listened to an interview with Film Director Danny Boyle, held at this year’s SXSW.

He spoke about the democratization of film-making, how easy it is for a new generation of film-makers to distribute their content on the web direct to the public (which I liken to self e-publishing for wannabe writers), and the fact that anyone with a smartphone camera can now create footage on the fly that may well end up one day on prime time TV news.

One other comment he made that resonated with me was his prediction on the future of movie-making.

According to him, soon, we will be given the license to re-edit movies ourselves, potentially leading to a ‘’whole new art form” – just in the same way as we are able to create new music tracks by remixing existing ones. This point reminded me of what has started happening with crowd-sourced advertising.

Crowdsourcing of user-Generated Content (UGC) for advertising or promotional purposes is nothing new. However, it was recently taken to another level by Ford and Coca Cola. These 2 companies are empowering their fans on creating content in new and bold ways, whilst being careful to retain some control over the final outputs.

At the start of the year, Ford announced its plan to recruit 100 new brand ‘’agents’’ (as they are known), all handpicked and socially-connected, to produce the next campaign for its 2014 Fiesta – that is 12 months worth of ads entirely generated by consumers…! Daring and ground breaking at the same time. And this is where it all starts if you wish to put yourself forward as a wannabe ad exec: simply go to fiestamovement.com to register (good luck! ☺).

This move stays true to the car marker’s existing reputation as one of the most social marketers. I see it as the natural continuation of its Ford Fiesta Movement kicked off 4 years, when 100 social “agents” were then recruited within the target audience to create content about their own driving experiences for seeding on social media.

This year’s campaign however ups the ante as it empowers the selected lucky few a lot more than previously. Their video clips will not only appear on social media but also on other media. They could be used as TV or online commercials, repurposed as digital, social media or press ads (generating substantial production cost savings in the process no doubt). Obviously, the casting of these agents is managed tightly by the advertiser as a number of filters and parameters for recruits to work within will apply. These are necessary to ensure all content created is indeed on brand and achieves the campaign objectives in terms of awareness, social media buzz (shareability and virality), hand-raisers and ultimately sales wins. However Ford also insists that it will be careful not to interfere too much with the creative process by giving its agents greater ownership and license than usual.

Meanwhile, Coca Cola also appears to be on a mission to redefine UGC as it continues to seek to create closer ties with its target audience by crowd-sourcing pop song writing in its latest campaign, the Perfect Harmony Programme. The programme was developed in partnership with Fox’s “American Idol” and lets you create a song with pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen. Each week you can vote on which of the proposed lyrics you want to see featuring in sections of the song, and each vote unlocks exclusive content. You also get entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a trip to the “American Idol” season finale and other related treats.

… And as I threw my vote in for week 1 of the campaign, I couldn’t help notice (with great delight!) that at any time Coca Cola didn’t force me to like their Facebook page to participate. Consistent with Coca Cola’s approach to creating genuine connections with its fans.

Now, let’s go back to Danny Boyle’s comment on the future of film making with both of these examples in mind.

I would say that the future of film making will not only be about empowering fans and wannabe film makers to remix existing movies, but also about letting fans and the public at large contribute to creating an entire storyline from scratch, in partnership with a brand, established film studio and/or film marker – with this collaboration simply enabled by the web and social media.

And this has already started happening to some extent. CollabFeature has been leading the way by allowing a collective of independent film makers all over the world to co-create, co-direct and produce feature films by simply collaborating online via a bespoke platform. Their first film, The Owner, won the German IPTV award for innovative format in 2012 and beat the Guinness World Record for most directors of a film with 25 directors directing from 13 countries.

The next logical instalment of this could be to see a brand (Red Bull and its media & content division, Red Bull Media House, come to mind) partner with an established film maker (or music artist) on crowdsourcing a storyline (or lyrics) for a feature film (or song) in a similar fashion i.e. by completely opening up the content creation process to their fans and wider public – not just to a limited crowd of professionals or within constraining parameters (e.g. choosing from ready-made lyrics). The idea would be to let the consumer be in the driving seat with the brand and film maker (or music artist) providing guidance only.

You then end up with a three-way partnership between an advertiser, a film maker (or artist) and their fans and consumers co-creating entertainment together for the enjoyment of the wider public. The key challenge will be to let consumers drive or at least have an equal share of voice in the project. This also throws all sorts of questions over whom ultimately owns that content. However the legal hurdles seem to be worthwhile as to my knowledge, this type of partnership is unheard of (let me know if you know otherwise) and yet, is in my view the ultimate brand-consumer connection to aim for.

A couple of weeks ago, I touched on Coca Cola’s latest foray into social TV with its 2013 Super Bowl’s Mirage Big Game ad campaign. Although it did experience a few glitches on D Day, there is no doubt Mirage is one of the most sophisticated and successful social TV campaigns to date, having generated over 11 million fan engagements according to Coca Cola.

In a nutshell, the campaign starts with a TV ad that kicks off a story (the story of 3 teams competing for an iced Coke bottle in the middle of the desert). That story is in fact a game that unfolds over 3 stages (pre, during and post Super Bowl game), and plays out simultaneously across the small screen and the social Web, as TV viewers get to choose how the story ends by voting for their favourite team on the campaign site and the brand’s social media channels.

Before Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz used Twitter in a similar fashion in its UK #YOUDRIVE TV advertising campaign at the end of last year. The campaign let viewers choose the ending of a 3-part story on the new A Class model that played during commercial breaks in the “X Factor” show. According to research conducted by Twitter UK, Mercedes Benz and ITV, the integration of Twitter into the TV ads had a positive impact on the brand’s metrics and 71% of the tweets generated contained the campaign hashtags with 1 in 4 wanting to find out more about the car.

By combining dynamic story telling, gamification and social media interaction, both campaigns are great examples of TV ads linking to a social conversation – and back. Traditionally a passive consumption experience, they reinvent TV advertising by letting the audience take control of the content and viewing experience.

These campaigns are just two examples of how social TV works. There are plenty more as social TV tends to vary in complexity of the execution and may extend out beyond Twitter and Facebook to include advertiser-owned platforms.

At its most basic – the broadcast of tweets in real time during a TV programme is one of the most prevalent forms of social TV e.g. when the ABC’s TV programme Q&A takes questions and reactions live from TV viewers via Twitter back onto the small screen – a simple yet effective way of maximizing audience participation.

At the other end of the spectrum – we have companion apps such as Zeebox or Yahoo7! Fango that go a step further by centralizing all social conversations about one or multiple shows in one place, serving up related content in real time, and rewarding users for their loyalty with exclusive content or prizes.

Whichever way you go about social TV, the one common denominator and pre-requisite to its success is the brand’s ability to tell a compelling story that everyone wants to talk about. In other words, without cut-through content there is no social buzz, no social TV.

Why is social TV so much on the rise? (and here to stay.)

It leverages what has become second nature to most of us: our second screen behaviour. Or put simply, the fact that most TV viewers are using a second screen (tablet, mobile or desktop) whilst watching TV.

Which begs the question: what do they do on that second screen?

According to a recent Yahoo!7 survey into the viewing habits of Australians, 43% use social media whilst watching TV, with a large number of them posting on Facebook about what they are watching.

Twitter is the other big favourite destination for our TV-related banter to take place – so much so that it fully embraces TV as an integral part of its corporate future – why buy Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics start up that tracks conversations about brands and TV shows, if for no other reason?

In other words, Facebook and Twitter have become the perfect companions to TV shows and ads. By enabling a shared viewing experience with friends, likeminded fans and viewers as well as 1:1 conversations with our favourite brands and shows, they have in essence redefined the home entertainment experience for most of us.

But are all brands equal in front of social TV?

At first, it appears not. A recent report reveals that Television shows are amongst the most liked Facebook pages, closely followed by Retail fashion and Food brands. This makes social TV an opportunity not to be missed for brands in these categories given their target audiences’ propensity to congregate in social forums.
However, thinking about it some more, it is not so much the category that is a driver in my opinion, but I would argue the brand’s ability to effectively use social media in the first place.
If the brand does a great job out of it i.e it has a clear, single-minded social media strategy and purpose (e.g. promote the overall business – ref. Shell, provide customer service – ref. US retailers, promote a lifestyle – ref. Red Bull etc.) and the resource behind it (talent and $$), then any brand can have a shot at social TV.

And how about measurement I hear you say?

As the TV viewing experience evolves to integrate social media platforms, measurement metrics for TV programmes and ads have to evolve too.

Audience reach can no longer be judged on traditional TV ratings only; new measurement metrics need to be introduced to capture user engagement across social media platforms and devices as the story plays out on the small screen and triggers conversations on the second screen (Nielsen US is ahead of the pack in that respect as it makes it its mission to devise new metrics for TV consumption).

All in all, I think social TV is brilliant news for advertisers, creative and media agencies alike.

Not only does it give TV as a medium greater accountability and further proof that the (costly) investment is worthwile, it also gives TV advertising and the TV viewing experience as a whole a new lease of life.

A lot of ink has been spilled lately on the “immediacy of the internet”, the “real-time web”, the benefits of “newsjacking” and the fact that social media “war rooms”, “mission controls” and “creative newsrooms” are becoming a regular fixture at brands’ HQ.

These are just some of the causes and manifestations of what has become known as real-time marketing. Or 24/7 marketing as some of us like to call it.

I like to think of real-time marketing as a form of opportunism with a marketing or PR twist. In my opinion, it is best defined as:

The art and practice of taking advantage, in real time, of trending topical content to create maximum impact for your brand or product.

Where the impact is measured in terms of offline and online WOM, earned media coverage, sales etc.

A recent successful example of this is the “Dunk in the dark” Twitter ad from Oreo at this year’s Super Bowl, which was created and broadcast within minutes of the power outage causing some of the lights to go out. This tiny (and inexpensive) ad generated over ten thousand retweets and Facebook likes before going viral on Tumblr. Although the sales impact is yet unknown, the brand awareness and equity have most certainly gone up as a result.

Another lesser known but no less successful example is the appropriation of the Super Bowl by an American advertising agency for the last 3-4 years. Not only does its Brand Bowl do a great job of “highjacking’’ the game extensive publicity, it also leverages a well-known behaviour (the fact that everyone LOVES to talk about the Super Bowl ads) whilst showcasing the agency’s smarts in social media to existing and potential customers:

Why is real-time marketing grabbing so many headlines these days?

Although it’s been around for some time, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst advertisers as a result of a fundamental change in the way we consume content. This new behaviour has created more opportunities to engage with their audience apropos.

The fact is that more and more of us are connected to the web for a larger portion of our day as we hop from one device to the next. One way to look at our ever-growing need to stay connected through a device is nicely summed up here (courtesy of Rob Gordon):

sleep internet

According to Google, on average 4.4hours of our leisure time is spent in front of screens every day (be it a TV, mobile, tablet or desktop screen), with a good chunk of that time spent online. (And some of us are more addicted than others: with up to 9 hours spent on screens and more time online than any other nation, the British are officially the most obsessed with the www.)

To put this into context, the above Super Bowl case studies both tapped into the 36% of Super Bowl viewers who confided they would be using a second screen, with 52% admitting to using social media during the game.

What are the key ingredients to successfully targeting this new breed of highly connected consumers?

Simply put, speed, impact and relevance. Or the timely delivery of relevant content with high virality potential.

Easily said, not so easily done as the challenge for marketers then becomes to have the right skills on hand and solid logistics behind it.

Brands have to be prepared to commit dedicated in-house resource to it or alternatively outsource the service entirely – a substantial and continuous investment either way. Additionally, it is advisable that they continue leveraging their creative and media partner agencies’ smarts to ensure the content ideas, the timing and delivery channel(s) resonate best with the target audience, especially around key campaign dates.

Coca Cola and Oreo’s real-time management of their Super Bowl social media campaigns exemplify this cross-functional brand/agency operational model perfectly, and how involved it can get:

Coca Cola set up “war rooms” across the country as it monitored and responded live to user engagements throughout its Mirage TV and social game campaign at this year’s Super Bowl. The size of the multidisciplinary team pulled together on that one day was impressive:
“Nearly 40 execs from Coca-Cola, Wieden, Starcom MediaVest Group and PR shop Allidura gathered at the 360i offices in downtown Manhattan to manage the brand’s second screen experience. Another 20 people worked remotely in collaboration with the team, while Katie Bayne, president-North America brands, and Allison Lewis, senior VP-marketing Coca-Cola North America, were in New Orleans at the game.” (Source: Ad Age)

Likewise, Oreo’s Black Out Twitter ad would not have been possible without a solid operation in place: brand and agency teams (including copywriters, artists and senior brand stakeholders) were on call that day, strategising together in the same room, and ready to react within minutes to any opportune situation unravelling on and off the pitch throughout the game.

As a brand, you may prefer to keep your involvement to a minimum by outsourcing the operations and bulk of the work to an agency specialising in real-time content creation and newsjacking. That’s Pepsi’s choice with its partnership with Deep Focus’ social media service Moment Studio.

Whichever operational model you choose, it can’t be a half-hearted effort and requires a serious investment in time and $$ to deliver positive results for your brand.

Finally, another question comes to mind: can brands afford not to be committed to real-time marketing 24/7?

With so many of us connected around the clock, it appears not. The Burger King Twitter PR disaster, the latest high-profile hack in the series, shows how imperative it is for a brand to have a strategy in place for the efficient and timely monitoring of their social channels 24/7.

Whichever way you go about it, for real-time marketing to work in the connected world we live in, it requires a fundamental shift in mindset on the advertiser’s part i.e. their agreement to a lean, nimble approval process to allow for the speedy delivery of near-instant communications. And in my view that is probably the trickiest part and biggest obstacle to effective real-time marketing.

I have just read about Coca Cola’s recent Twitter fail at the Super Bowl (and campaign website fail also). A question comes to mind: could the brand have anticipated *and* avoided the issues experienced as it quickly reached its (increased) tweet publishing limit on the social network?

In my view, yes. On two grounds.

First, given the sheer size of the audience targeted on the day of the event, I feel it was ill-advised to use Twitter as a communication tool to thank *individual* users who were voting in its game. The risk of reaching the allowed hourly and daily limits was very real. An eventuality that became all the more real when voters on D Day were redirected to vote via Twitter… when the campaign site crashed under the heavy traffic.

What was the size of the audience I hear you ask?

Enormous. On the day of the incident only, as the ad aired at the start of the game, over 108 million Super Bowl TV viewers (vs 100 million estimated) tuned in and were able to vote for their favourite team through the campaign site and the brand’s social media channels.
Add to this the fans of the brand as content was seeded across all its social channels leading up to the game and during the game to get the voting and engagement going: nearly 60 millions Facebook fans, 0.5M+ Twitter followers plus YouTube viewers on top and without counting Tumblr and Instagram.

Not surprisingly, the levels of participation were no less impressive:

On its website, Coca Cola boasts “over 11 million fan engagements” and continues on with “Over one million fans visited CokeChase.com to vote for the characters they liked best. More impressively, those visitors stayed on the site, each participating in an average of eight “sabotages” against opposing factions. While the company anticipated fewer than one million total sabotages, nearly 7.3 million were performed”.

So, did Coca Cola simply become a victim of its own success having underestimated user engagement levels?

Yes but not just.

Regardless of audience sizes, I don’t feel it was necessary to thank voters participating via Twitter. In fact, it would have been ok not to thank them on Twitter in my opinion.

As a frequent user of social media networks, Twitter doesn’t strike me as being the right forum to do this i.e. I would expect a brand to thank me personally for my participation on Facebook but not on Twitter, where this kind of 1:1 interactions are pretty scarce in my own experience.
I feel Twitter is used at its best mainly as a source of up-to-the minute news bites – and when I retweet any of the tweets I receive from the brands, bloggers, etc I follow, I don’t expect them to thank me in return. I guess that’s how I have been conditioned.

As for Twitter’s response and policy on campaigns of that scale – I was relieved to read that Twitter expects advertisers to know better: “For Twitter, the issue boils down to protecting user experience and making sure that people and brands are tweeting in a judicious way”.
Judicious = sensible and Coca Cola was nothing but sensible on this one occasion.

I was equally pleased to find out that it is not Twitter’s intention to create special accounts with super high daily publishing limits. This would equal to a form of spamming in my world and as a Twitter fan, I would be devastated if it ever were to turn into Facebook any time soon, where the level of “advertising spam” is driving away users.

Finally, this one marketing glitch on Coca Cola’s part doesn’t take away the brilliance they have otherwise demonstrated in the planning and execution of their Mirage campaign – this truly was a marketing coup on many grounds and a fine example of how Social TV works – more on this later!

For now, check out the ad that kicked off this one-of-a-kind TV-and-social-media game if you haven’t seen it yet:

I have just come across 2 recent studies on how social commerce is trending and impacting on sales in the US & Europe (the most insightful of which I am sharing with you here).

2 of their key findings which stuck out for me are:

#1 – 90% of the conversations about brands are still happening offline vs a meagre 10% online (source: InTV how to harness the power of conversations).

In other words, offline WOM still prevails by far and this behaviour is unlikely to change anytime soon with face-to-face chats with spouses, relatives and friends remaining the #1 influencers on purchase decisions, not the social banter.

And –

#2 – Social media very seldomly directly leads to an online sale (ref. low conversion rates/direct referrals).

This is not to say however that social media hasn’t got a role to play – it may well trigger a conversation in the offline world with your loved and trusted ones, ultimately leading to a sale. So still worth investing into in order to influence/guide those offline conversations.

The problem for advertisers then becomes how to measure the true impact/ROI of social conversations on their sales – if at all possible. Any ideas, anyone?

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