Sunday, February 22, 2009

Press play. Make work.

I spend too much time pressing play. For the purpose of this argument, I will default autoplay into the same conversation. On the flipside, I spend too little time making it work. Not because I don't want to or because I don't try. It's just not really possible yet. Like everyone else I take videos, stick them on the internet and then tell people where they are.

I am not going to slide into the media fervor on video monetization models or the lack thereof. Outside of the fact that the economic pressure on the segment makes speculation nothing short of useless, I am actually more specifically concerned about making the playing itself work better.

For example, let's assume it is possible to create, recreate, share and repurpose web video into a more personal experience and that we are not really all that happy firing millions of bits of unwanted bouncing pixels into our retinas in a fire-and-forget fashion.

We want to benefit from deep engagement, we want sites and tools to understand how we use them, and we want them to improve their recommendations and results for us, but everywhere we turn content and site owners are forced to push semi-relevant or just plain old irrelevant messages into these emerging channels. All this serves to do is make a few dollars and unfortunately further alienate viewers. Short-sighted is as short-sighted does, even if it drives a few eyeballs hopefully in the right direction.

Increasing responsiveness to commercial messaging in online video through rich interactivity and powerful personalization is still emerging and while this holds promise there are still a lack of standards and a definite shortage of relevant data to realistically project how audiences will interpret, interact, share and extend these experiences.

Moving along

Companies in the space are also working to maximize traceability with the goal of understanding and exploiting usage patterns, but there is little indication or promise that this data will be used to enhance the experience or help the user towards their explicit goal. Ultimately this means that the promise will have failed every time, at least for now, to empower content and marketing teams by providing any meaningful rich insight into the way video is consumed. So, guess what happens, everyone just puts it on YouTube - at least they know people watch it there.

Compounding this issue is the way in which we have traditionally imagined introducing this new layer of interaction and engagement within the viewing experiences. The whole objective we have traditionally been focused on in advertising is to yank the viewer out of the wonderful experience we have decided to sponsor or support through getting them to click, to leave. Recently a publisher told me that they were not interested in building promotional experiences that drove viewers out of the site. Seems logical, and somehow I forget what made us (the collective industry us) think that the exact same interaction model as search or banner ads (click to visit, click to learn more) could ever effectively translate to engaged viewers in an on-demand world. The reason you change channels during commercials on TV is not really going to translate well here.

Or the alternative to just sticking your stuff out where the world watches currently seems to be a slippery slope of high investment, mass customization, expensive content production, and ultimately complex IT-centric integration to systems designed to handle text and images in order to arrive at a point where you are still going to need to drag the eyeballs in front of your new screen. I have spent a lot of time tripping through corporate channels and video areas, and unless the video is actively integrated into the content the views are disparagingly low in most cases.

I am not saying there are not solutions out there that solve this. I am simply pointing out that from a layman perspective, the incredible complexity and potentially high investment rate have not delivered a returns model that can easily translate to a normalized business decision making process.

Okay, so I've put the problem out there...what's the solution?

The first step is to unbuckle our collective, exhausted Frankenstien and let him out of the corporation video lab in order to make room for some cleaner R&D and fresh thinking to happen. While that happens, I don't expect anyone to stop pressing play, but I am willing to bet that clicks on the little X to close continue to increase. I will most likely never post 'my' version of the solution here until I have something to show but I will absolutely jump into any conversation on it.

Morgan Brown, director of marketing at TurnHere, said in this Advertising Age article, "Web video is its own medium. Authenticity and information are a critical part of ensuring that viewers aren't disappointed in their decision to view the video. Video advertising with poor production quality or uninspiring content creates a negative brand experience. To make a video truly actionable it must emotionally engage viewers, building the trust and familiarity that forms the backbone of return on investment."

Great points, but now that you have them emotionally engaged with that amazing story and appropriate level of production value for the web, what makes it actionable?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Twestival Ottawa

Clean water will eventually be a problem for everyone.

On 12 February 2009 175+ cities around the world will be hosting Twestivals which bring together Twitter communities for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity: water. What's a Twestival? Why a Twitter Festival, of course.

There are a lot of ways to get involved:

  • Attending one of the events detailed on the city sites listed on this page. The event I am producing is detailed below.
  • You can now upload or buy music at
  • Take part in the t-shirt design competition.
  • Donate to charity: water.

The Twestival is organized 100% by volunteers in cities around the world and 100% of the money raised from these events will go directly to support charity: water projects.

Ottawa Twestival kicks off tomorrow night at 7 PM at Suite 34, 34 Clarence St., Ottawa in the Byward Market.

Big shout out to our sponsor - Overlay.TV - for making sure we can donate 100% of the proceeds from the night by covering all the base costs for the event. Rob Lane, CEO, will be helping us pry your wallets open for this great cause so be ready.

Some great prizes were donated - check out the post below for information on the silent auction. More came in today and we will update the list shortly. Thanks to Ryan Anderson’s hard work the local traditional press has agreed to grace us with some coverage - Ottawa Citizen, the CBC and the Ottawa Sun (24 Hrs) have been working on their unique angles to the story. A few event attendees have also agreed to give their unique perspective on the situation - more on this coming soon.

For the night of the event we have now confirmed the logistics for a live video feed and our ability to pickup the feed from all the other participating cities. Having done several internet broadcasts in the past, I will ask you to bear with us in the event of us having any issues getting this part to function perfectly ;-)

We are expecting a full house now, so please be sure to get your tickets online if at all possible. If you cannot, please @bitpakkit or @sassymonkey your details to make sure we have tickets held for you in the event you are arriving late.

DJs confirmed - Ottawa scene-rs GrahamJ and DJ Plush are on the bill - more information on that below as well. Shaping up to be a great night - plan to hang out and have a few drinks, meet some people you may only know as avatars today, shake it up with the belly dancers, and help propel Ottawa into this unique global stage and ultimately make a difference in the life of someone who does not have access to the same clean water that we take for granted.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Brand evolved. Agency too...

The video above was produced by Scholz & Friends, a self-described network of friends that functions as an advertising agency, interestingly using the entire spectrum of communications tactics to deliver brand advertising for a broad range of clients. According to their website, their approach is a composite similar to that of a band where "we compose solos for individual voices and we design orchestrated campaigns which bring together a multitude of different instruments." You can explore all the different agencies in the group by country or by instrument here.

In their own words...

"Scholz & Friends ist das einzige europ√§ische Agenturnetzwerk deutschen Ursprungs und seit der Gr√ľndung 1981 eine der Top-Kreativadressen der Kommunikationsbranche. Als „Orchestra of Ideas bietet die Agenturgruppe das gesamte Spektrum der Kommunikationsinstrumente an: von klassischer Werbung, Public Relations, Online, Event, Promotion, Architektur, Dialog, Design bis zu TV-Produktionen."

The business structure is also a radical departure from traditional agencies even though as indicated above they do provide all the requisite services - classical advertising practice, public relations, on-line/interactive, event production, architecture, copywriting, design right through to TV production.  In 2003 the network was formalized, and a group of roughly 40 leading executives across the agency business became shareholders in this new agency format. Of that forty executives, 12 members were then selected to sit on the 'board', which is basically a revolving committee that has been mandated to discuss key issues across all subject areas within the network.

This is a very interesting approach to crafting an agency business model and distinguishing between the members. While it is perhaps similar to the "colors" of Dentsu, it seems less personal than the individual colors and somehow more practical in terms of defining expertise and value. I'm not saying it's better - but it is similarly unique.

You can find more videos from them on their YouTube channel.

Twitter Timelines

One of the most interesting things about following thousands of people on Twitter at the same time is the topic clouds and the way topics can burst onto the 'Twage' and exit almost as quickly. One of the most interesting visualizations I have ever seen of this was done around Superbowl XLIII the New York Times Superbowl Twitter Timeline. Obviously, Cardinals and Steelers are very topical throughout the entire game, but scroll about halfway into the halftime show and all of America lights up Springsteen.

Very cool. I love data visualization and I love topic bursts in social media - put them together and you got me scrolling back and forth like it's a Tinkertoy truck and I'm five years old. You can also see the ads spring up as they run for the first time during the event.