/// The role of sharing: advertising in the age of social media
During a commercial break amid the annual Macy’s fourth of July celebration on NBC, two commercials aired within minutes of one another that underscored a new era of advertising. The first was an ad for Macy’s itself, a compilation of real user-submitted footage taken by Macy’s shoppers and fans throughout the US. The American Icons crowdsourcing effort has paid big dividends.
Then, just a minute later, I found myself watching a different variation of the same formula: Canon produced a collection of slow-motion clips of kids spinning and jumping while competing at a fierce soccer match. Both commercials feature montages of short, intense and vibrant clips that when cut together display incredible storytelling. But what makes them so notable is the additional shelf-life they have demonstrated from online viewing. The Macy’s ad has racked up nearly 600,000 views in just six weeks, while the Canon one boasts an impressive 80,000 in the two weeks since it was uploaded to YouTube. In this way, YouTube clicks have become as essential a measurement as any for modern advertisers.
Some brands of course have made the shift from television to digital better than others. What’s clear, though, is that a new opportunity has turned up. Thanks to digital video recorders (DVRs) and similar technology, more people are fast-forwarding through commercials. In recent years, some companies have fought that evolving trend by incorporating more product placement into the programmes themselves. Needless to say, it’s not every viewer’s favourite thing to see, especially when it’s done poorly. However, others have responded to the challenge by aspiring to make more compelling and enjoyable ads. The savviest brands today will use television airtime as a chance to introduce a brand, service or campaign and to reel people in. Then, they turn to the power of the share button.
It makes sense, too. Every company is talking about how to make their materials more “human” and how to relate better to the contemporary consumer. Social media has changed the game in that regard; customer service, messaging, and reputation have always been discussed and weighed, yet they play a more central and critical role now than anyone would have anticipated. Everyone is watching at all times. If we believe a brand to be deserving, we’re willing to help them blast a blowout sale or a sweet advertisement to our newsfeeds. Every day more than 100,000 people get updates and article recommendations from Shutterstock’s social media editor.
Social media is the best way to find new and unexpected audiences. Take, for instance, the immensely popular AT&T campaign that has won the hearts of parents and children alike. Traditional brands have rarely shown such an openness to improvisation. This ad, and its kiddie cuteness, has been largely perceived as a welcome, disruptive change. Script, film, approve, air. That old model didn’t work for AT&T in this case. For those on the sidelines admiring AT&T’s brilliant colloquium of young children, there’s a healthy discussion to be had about what really carries a campaign to success. A little bit of looseness with the framing of an idea can go a long way towards enabling potentially viral syndication and redistribution.
The traditional rules of advertising have been turned on their head and we’re living in an exciting new era where we can be surprised by clever ingenuity. A few years ago, Pepsi Max struck big with its Uncle Drew campaign, which put basketball phenomenon Kyrie Irving in makeup and costume to school some young park hotshots on the court. It was atypical from the start, particularly in its length. Different versions aired on TV and online, with sequels, behind-the-scenes extras, website presence and more. It is promoted and runs more like a movie than a TV commercial. The creators trusted that with a strong story behind it, the ad would attract and keep its intended audience.
Macy’s and Canon join a growing list of brands that are starting to wise up to this new advertising landscape. The public are saying: if you amaze us, we’ll help promote you in the same way we share other clips. Show us what we want before we know we want it. If you please us, we can reward you 10 times over.
The Guardian – Danny Groner