Safety Net: A Personal POV by Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer, GroupM Global

Safety Net: A Personal POV by Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer, GroupM Global

To GroupM’s global chief digital officer, NFL scandals may be a bellwether for a shift away from big-league entertainment in favor of innovative new celebrities on fresh platforms.

Unless you live in a dark hole or were distantly obsessed with the Scottish Independence vote, you would have noticed that the Islamic State and the National Football League have been unlikely bedfellows atop the U.S. news cycle in recent days.

The NFL has been America’s alpha sport for a generation, a cash register for owners and players, and a key plank of broadcast ratings and advertiser strategy. It’s a game played by young men and followed by all men, yet the ones that play it and the ones that run it have begun to bring the game into disrepute. In the last year or so the game has been darkened by at the usual spate of firearms, drug and driving infractions: at last one murder, a player suicide in a stadium parking lot, revelations of prevalent long-term brain injury and now a series of reports of domestic violence that have (finally?) catalyzed outrage and even action by the people who own and run the game.

The response is overdue, but maybe it’s too late. There are indicators available that suggest the next generation of NFL viewers might just not show up, even if it does not show up in the ratings just yet.

In August 2014, Variety reported that the most influential celebrities among 13- to 18-year-old Americans were Smosh, the Fine Brothers and PewDiePie. The most influential non-YouTube star is the late Paul Walker, a fixture in Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise. Outside of sports and the very best (and very worst) of television and movies, the axis of entertainment may be tilting inexorably. This could be bad news for putative $1m-per-episode sitcom stars and $1m-dollar-a-game players, and better news for people who can separate celebrity (however narrow) from wealth and viewers who value a more intimate relationship with the people who entertain them.

The litany of YouTube stars is well-known but incomprehensible to many established buyers, sellers and creators of advertising. Yet, it’s not just about entertainment in the usual form.  Twitch live-streams on screen video game playing to anything from a few to tens of thousands of simultaneous viewers. Twitch (and its 50 million unique users) is one manifestation of a broader phenomenon: Live game play as both participant and spectator is now hugely distributed in countries like South Korea, where bandwidth is truly abundant.  This cannot be ignored by mainstream brands. As the behavior grows you, can’t be secure in the idea that “they will grow out of it” as a reason to ignore what real people really do.

Television as the dominant advertising medium is not confronting an imminent apocalypse; in fact, “traditional” TV distributed on non-traditional devices dominates digital video revenue. That said, advertisers will not maximize reach against younger audiences today without non-traditional video, and that situation will effect broader populations over time, as fewer grow up with the traditional TV habit. This scenario is already playing out in markets that lack the installed base of multi-television cable or satellite enabled homes. That may not maximize engagement either if they are not prepared to debate the relative merits of Smosh and the NFL in terms of brand safety.

Banality or brutality? Take your pick. Radisson Hotels took their pick in suspending their sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings following an allegation of player violence against his son.

It may be time to re-evaluate the notion of “high common denominator” mass media, however uncomfortable that maybe for the communications industry and its clients.

Safety Net: A Personal POV by Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer, GroupM Global

Creativity That is Made for Sharing

Creativity That Is Made For Sharing

LinkedIn Influencer Blog

By Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer, GroupM

Decomposing the structure of Gangnam Style (beyond the song itself) to identify the plannedvirality and network effect of the piece has been attempted before:

  • Use the popularity and / or notoriety of a star
  • Add a supporting cast that has large and varied social followings
  • Connect via a cultural meme (in this case the K Pop diaspora) to the world at large

In short a combination of cultural and social triggers that created a remarkable outcome.

For brand owners such planned virality is harder to conceive and execute. Using its own cocktail of highly nuanced social triggers Nestle in India has recently launched a corporate campaign via its agencies McCann Erickson, Zenith Optimedia and Maxus called ‘shareyourgoodness’ or perhaps more relevantly #shareyourgoodness.

The video is not embeddable, but you can watch it here:

There are four aspects of this campaign that are worthy of note; the first three were strongly noted in the Twitter stream that followed the release of the film :

1. The film features an adopted child. Adoption is a positive cultural theme as it enables more children to ascend the social and economic ladder in a massively complex and populated society.

2. The adopted child is both female and of more Japanese than Indian appearance which defy traditional adoption conventions and allow a more complex narrative of “acceptance and embracing” by the boy of the girl.

3. The acceptance takes place in the context of sharing food, a truly ancient symbol of sharing, and the heart of Nestle’s business, but critically the foods are home made and NOT Nestle products allowing the mandolin separation of content marketing and corporate branding from advertising..

4. It’s three minutes long (there are many other more conventional units). This simply makes the point that brand communication is no longer constrained by the time / cost containers of traditional media and creates a creative freedom that can then unlock other shorter and lighter executions for distribution in conventional media channels.

So this is far from a literal iteration of the Gangnam Style virality formula but structurally there is commonality in the design of individual socially relevant and slightly provocative components woven together into a broader narrative. In aggregate this points to another step in the evolving architecture of brand and corporate communication.

This is creativity that is ‘social by design’. It remains to be seen just how shared #shareyourgoodness will be but 7 million or so total views to date suggest something of value especially as the majority of the views of the longer version have been organic rather than paid and significant numbers of these have been outside India.

Rob Norman : Chief Digital Officer GroupM

Image is copyright and approved for use here by Nestle India.


Brands and Social: Finding the Perfect Fit

By Chris Copeland, CEO of GroupM Next

As Facebook turns 10 and the proliferation of social networks continues, brands find themselves with a difficult decision – how to be all things, to all people, in all places.

Over the past year, more and more brands have sought to get into the real-time and content businesses. Sometimes these two merge, but often they are, at best, complementary strategies for reaching an audience. But where to reach them has become as challenging, if not more challenging, as what to say when reaching them.

After years of explaining that a 30-second TV spot would not work on the Internet, brands don’t need the lecture when it comes to social media. They understand that even though Instagram and Pinterest are both visual networks, they require different communication plans to maximize the consumer connection.

So, with the demands of at least six, maybe 10, credible networks vying for attention from brands based on consumer usage, what should the brand strategy be to achieve success?

The easy answer is that it depends on the brand.

Or even that you need to be where your audience is, and they are on ALL of these networks.

But perhaps the more measured answer may be to let the creative canvas dictate what you do.

There is little doubt that, with the scale across all of these platforms, you could be everywhere. But, can you afford to be everywhere? With the growing acceptance that paid media must now support owned and earned, and the varying creative opportunities of platforms, the right answer for many brands may be more focused on casting a wide net.

It’s a tough sell for brands that have been throwing social network logos on TV commercials and that want to be associated with the next big thing. But brands need to ask the following: Does this site allow our brand to represent itself in a way that’s authentic and sustainable to us, while capturing the attention of a large segment of our target audience?

If yes, then invest. If no, then step back and shift focus to those properties that do allow you to create relevant connections. Tell your story in the formats most natural to your brand and be comfortable with the properties best suited for that. If social media is based on authenticity, then you have an obligation to deliver for your customers and, in this case, less will be more.

Annual IAB Leadership Meeting

Filmed at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Springs, CA, Cary Tilds discusses the future of mobile ads.

“Mobile advertising is in its infancy, but there are a lot of opportunities for brands including mobile video, native (content), display, and the organic/natural connection between mobile and consumer with the brand”, says GroupM Chief Innovation Officer Cary Tilds.

The Connected Consumer Show: The Real CES

By Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer of GroupM Global

A decade ago Comdex, the annual geek fest, cancelled its signature Vegas event and was subsumed by the Consumer Electronics Show, becoming part of the behemoth that it is today. The emphasis flipped from switches and routers to screens and devices and a broader appeal beyond ‘an inside baseball’ technology trade fair.

More recently the event has become a pilgrimage second only to the Cannes Lions for marketers watching screens get bigger, definition getting higher, phones getting smaller then smarter and wondering at the ‘never quites’ like 3D TV and personal virtual reality.

While curved screens from tablets to giant displays might dominate the Central Hall of the Convention Center, these days it might be more useful for marketers to spend time in the North Hall with vehicles, the defining mobile devices, or the South Hall, full of wearables*, the defining detectors of vice and virtue; and among the start ups in the Venetian and in some cases just walking the halls. All these tell us that the show has taken another step change demonstrating how things wearable and autonomous are affecting the future of the home, the car and the connected nature of things, the people in them, using them, and wearing them.

These developments, in combination, are giving us insight not just into the home of the future but the future of a society that is informed by, and responsive to a myriad of sensors that detect and react to the smallest changes in our physical state and the built environment around us.

Self-driving vehicles promise safety, economy, rational allocation of resources from road space to components and a time dividend that allows hours holding a wheel to become more productive; they also make advanced telematics safe to use! My Chairman, Irwin Gotlieb paying homage to DEC’s Ken Olsen’s 1977 quote said last week “I see no future in which any individual will be required to own or drive a automobile when fit for purpose autonomous vehicles will be available on demand.” The proximity of his tongue to his cheek was not entirely clear.

Intelligent devices in the home offer similar benefts from energy efficiency to security and food safety while wearables will offer actionable data to you, your cardiologist, your insurer and, no doubt to the Tofu loaded Amazon drone nearby.

All this offers a first world promise of more useful, safer, healthier and resource efficient lives and a more rapid cascade of those benefits to the developing world where bandwidth will be the key infrastructure needed to share in the intelligent future.

The implications of this are profound and affect the context of the annual trip to Vegas as data is the fourth great landmark following silicon, broadband and mobility. Like all landmarks this one creates a new set of challenges for advertisers and brand owners. The imperatives are clear:

1. Every product needs a data story and specifically a data story that can be discovered both actively and passively;

2. Every product will need to digitally animate beyond its physical self

3. Every product will be seen in the context of everything else we consume

4. Every product and service will need to think of new use cases if new time units become available

5. Many products will need to think of a service wrapper that surrounds the product itself in order to provide utility to users and a data narrative that gives the brand a place in the conversation. Storytelling that is all of active, passive, contextual and on demand won’t be easy.

6. Above all products will require clarity of purpose, integrity in origin and assembly and do all this while still maintaining the ability to differentiate, and to delight the connected consumer, after all it’s their show

* the newness of the word ‘wearables’ is validated by its absence from spell check making it an early candidate for 2014’s word of the year.