No, Begging Twitter to Verify Your Account Won’t Make It Happen

For those who really, really want Twitter’s coveted blue "verified account" badge, it is pursued as the ultimate validation of their life’s worth. For those who already have one, it’s … meh.

Little more than a dozen pixels wide, the verified checkmark has become a rabidly sought-after digital laurel symbolizing that you’ve "made it" at whatever it is you do.

Each day, Twitter’s official (but long dormant) @Verified account is flooded with requests from content creators, musicians, aspiring actors and models pleading to have their accounts consecrated as legit. And then there are their fans, unburdened by any sort of humility and practically rending their clothes in consternation at the idea that Twitter has failed to acknowledge the greatness of their favorite artists.

Dozens of fan-supported hashtags are circulating at any given time, in hopes of influencing Twitter’s decision to verify an account. An effort called #VerifyJordiWhitworth, supporting an X Factor contestant, became one of the U.K.’s top trending Twitter topics on Nov. 20, with fans tweet-screaming notes like: "WHY THE DAMN AREN’T YOU VERIFIED SERIOUSLY!! YOUR SO GODDAMN AMAZING." Alas, Whitworth remains unverified, much to the chagrin of his 25,000 followers.

Such attempts are generally met with failure, in fact. That's because Twitter doesn’t verify by public request. "We do not accept requests for verification from the general public," Twitter's site notes, along with the not-so-comforting advice that if you're an influential artist, politician, journalist, commentator or executive, "we may reach out to you in the future."

The unspoken reality is that verification almost always stems from an existing relationship with Twitter representatives. While often that’s an advertising relationship, it doesn’t always involve money changing hands.

"I haven’t seen it as some kind of quid pro quo," said David Berkowitz, CMO of digital agency MRY. "Realistically, brands that spend the most tend to have closer relationships with Twitter, so putting money on the table tends to help with relationships. But Twitter in general has done a good job in encouraging marketers and others to make the most of Twitter as a platform, so it's possible to have relationships with others at Twitter beyond ad sales representatives."

Bloomberg News White House correspondent Angela Greiling Keane says verification is a standard, behind-the-scenes step for the news service’s employees. "I and other Bloomberg colleagues get verified because our social media team takes care of it with Twitter. It's definitely a credential journalists like to have."

For many verified personalities, the checkmark is just something that appears one day.

David Armano, global strategy director for Edelman Digital, says he simply received an email asking him to click through to activate his verification, a process that left him with little advice to those aspiring to verified greatness.

"What I always thought was interesting about it is how seriously people take it," Armano said. "I've had many people ask me how I got verified and asked me if I could put in a word with Twitter so they could get the same treatment. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to be 'chosen,' or at least that was how it felt for me."




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Programmatic Content Will Bring Human Happiness, If Great Storytelling is Behind It

In ancient Greece, to become a great orator, you had to master three disciplines—logic, rhetoric and grammar. A professor once told me that good leaders need to master three traits—logos, pathos and ethos. Some of the greatest scientific thinkers were also skilled in painting, music and poetry.

So, it’s only in the natural order of things that the brand icons of the future will be built by content that is inspiring yet programmatically curated, conceived, crafted and consumed.

Whether it’s Amazon using data to determine what would be its blockbuster content foray or Netflix concocting House of Cards by weaving together statistically selected subnarratives and character sketches, it’s quite clear that math has a determined tryst with creative in the future.

So what does the future of content, and marketing itself, hold?

To begin with, data will enhance human happiness. This will be achieved by knowing who we are, anticipating our needs via correlation, simulation or referrals, and by responding to those needs with relevant content, connectivity or utility. Given the richness of this data, brands will need to build a content architecture. Instead of a creative strategy, brands will need a content strategy that leverages all five pipes—advertising, editorial, expertise, peer-to-peer and influencer content—in their appropriate roles in the customer choice journey.

Another key component will be that automation will allow microsegments. Smart hybrid planners will use data to identify microclusters displaying homogenous behaviors, discover their drivers and barriers, and craft content based on keen insights and shareworthy ideas. These ideas will be prototyped and survival tested in real-time environments. They will be seeded into relevant affinity groups and egged on by catalysts, co-creators and propagators to unleash viral impact.

Intelligent algorithms will fingerprint individuals and their individuality across devices, platforms and sales channels—both offline and online. Data-driven multitouch attribution models will define bottlenecks in the consumer journey and will be able to schedule the right channel and content mix to address them. Real-time attributions will maximize marketing ROI.

We are also seeing data management platforms (DMPs) communicating more and more with supply-chain systems to enhance capacity utilization, effect optimum pricing and maximize profits for product categories. As DMPs with real-time capabilities plug into the supply chain, programmatic content will be the bridge between supply and demand.

With all that said, it is great storytelling that will bring a leap in impact. While automated algorithms dependably and consistently seek the incremental efficiency troughs and impact crests at a micro level, the true brand lift will continue to come from great storytelling built on mutant insights that bridge brands with people in an ingenuous way.

Moving forward, we will continue to see the lines blur between marketing and sales. In the offline world, people watched ads in their living rooms and then went to the mall to buy stuff. In the online world, where the media ends and where the shop begins is difficult to tell. As more and more of our lives are mediated, often via content, rather than situated, it puts us in a great position to become experts in "mar-selling." Content will again be the key to own this future.

It’s clear that the golden age for our industry lies ahead. As the likes of Walmart and Amazon seek to leverage their data to become media owners; and the likes of IBM, Oracle and Adobe seek to automate marketing; and Accenture and Deloitte, with ambitions in marketing and media services, move into the ring central of our competitive arena—it will present critical challenges but also great opportunities for our industry.

People live their lives through media today, and what we do is more important to society than ever before.

Prashant Kumar is CEO of UM Malaysia and president, world markets, Asia-Pacific for IPG Mediabrands.




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Learn How to Block Your Ex and More in Facebook’s Cute, Quirky Tutorial Videos

Facebook, at long last, finally seems to be getting the hang of the whole advertising thing.

In addition to the pleasantly whimsical "Say Better" ads, which have been rolling out in recent weeks, the social network has also been working on a cute series of tutorials called "Just In Case Studies"—which use quirky storytelling to explain how to accomplish various technical steps on the Facebook app.

Four videos have been released so far. The best of the lot is "How to Block Someone," which shows a girl doing just that with her boyfriend after a painful breakup—though it doesn't exactly go as planned. Like all the videos in the series, it's quietly amusing, relatable, nicely shot and charmingly self-conscious—with a voiceover that's just as halting as our heroine.

The tutorials, made by Facebook's in-house creative studio The Factory, also include "How to Edit a Post," "How to Share With Just Friends" and "How to Untag a Photo." They're not ads, per se—but they have the same bemused tone as the "Say Better" spots.

And that's a good thing.




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How Philips Hooked Young Men With a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Campaign

Engaging an audience online—especially the fickle millennial male—can be a tall order. To capture his attention and show off the versatility of the Click & Style electric razor, Philips decided to create a choose-your-own adventure online video experience called "Designed to Play," which now has more than a thousand story outcomes.

The idea for the interactive campaign, which won a silver European Effie, started early last year. Lenze Boonstra, global marketing leader for personal care at Philips, said the brand was looking for a way to interest young men in electrical grooming. Realizing that this group spends most of its time online, it decided to launch an interactive Web campaign. "These guys are basically digital. They are living in that environment," he said. 

Philips tapped Ogilvy & Mather for help. After doing research, including a creative workshop session with younger men, the agency found that millennial guys feel bombarded with images of success and overwhelmed by an array of choices. Most of all, they fear making the wrong decision.

"We wanted to liberate this group from cultural tension and bring playfulness into young men's grooming habits. We wanted to show you can easily change your style, your image and your look,"  said Thorsten Ruehlemann, worldwide managing partner, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Düsseldorf.

Using Rapt Media's video player technology, Philips and Ogilvy & Mather created "Designed to Play" about a guy trying to figure out how to style his facial hair for a night of partying. At certain points during the video, users are prompted to make choices that change the storyline. 

The strategy worked. The average person made between three to four choices within the video, and spent three minutes and 55 seconds going through the options. Mobile users were by far the most enaged, spending a whopping 5 minutes. It improved purchase consideration for the Click & Style by 6 percent. And, in Germany, Philips sold 16 percent more Click & Style razors than projected.

During the first year of the campaign, there were five different initial choices (mustache, chin curtain, Van Dyke, full beard and clean shaven), and each had different choices within that style—all of which had to be filmed. Initially, there were 625 different possibilities for how the experience could go. This month, Ogilvy, Philips and Rapt Media announced they will renew the campaign for a second year and add a sixth storyline (stubble), bringing the total number of possibilities to 1,296.

To advertise the experience, Philips has created videos and bought pre-roll and banner ads on YouTube, a popular site with its demo. Those ads are focused in Europe, especially the U.K., Turkey, Russia, France, Germany and the Benelux countries, although they can be seen around the world. Most importantly, the campaign is available on mobile to reach young men who constantly use their cellphones. 

"Instead of giving Ogilvy a static end product, we gave them the tools to create the experience that they felt best matched their campaign and, after seeing the success of year one, we look forward to seeing even more success in year two," Erika Trautman, CEO and co-founder of Rapt Media said in a statement.




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Here’s How GM Uses Social Data to Improve Cars

When owners of the new Chevrolet Trax drive off lots in January, they will comment on everything from its built-in WiFi to its trunk space on Facebook, Twitter and auto blogs. Like all marketers, General Motors will keep an eye out for recurring complaints about features; but unlike most, the carmaker will troubleshoot and make alterations at its factory in real time. 

Brands increasingly are taking social sentiment seriously, and GM is among those closing the loop between customer feedback and its engineers.

"We are becoming more precise," said Whitney Drake, GM's lead for social media care. "We can resolve [issues] really quickly instead of waiting for a survey to come back."

After GM’s latest Cadillac Escalade hit the market in September, the passenger-side backseat’s cooling-ventilation system was actually heating up the seat directly in front of it. And in no time, Drake and her team of 20 could see on their Oracle-powered data dashboard that a wave of owners were posting about the flaw via social sites. She alerted the engineers, and repairs were made on the Escalades that were shipped to dealerships a few weeks later.

Similarly, the latest Chevy Silverado drew the ire of owners in southern states because the steering wheel had been designed with metal. "It got warm to the touch," Drake explained. "So the team was able to feed that information back to product development, which looked at it and then [nixed] that steering wheel as an option."

The retail sector is also improving customer service thanks to real-time pushback.

Dick’s Sporting Goods discovered from social data that in-store customers got less-than-stellar service in the hours leading up to closing time, so the retailer added more staff and trained personnel for evening shifts.

And Five Guys is currently testing milkshakes thanks to fans clamoring for frozen treats; the move came after data-driven decisions this year to add a smaller fry option to the menu and add more Coke "freestyle" soda machines. While working with tech firm NewBrandAnalytics, the burger chain observed that the freestyle machines boosted positive social sentiment by 20 percent. Additionally, Facebook and Twitter posts have led to fine-tuning Five Guys' soundtrack.

"We realized that our music was kind of stuck in '70s and '80s classic rock, so we let the '90s in," said Molly Catalano, the rep for Five Guys. "And then positive sentiment increased."

Of course, these data-based decisions are more about gross revenue than grunge riffs. So do they make cash registers ring? GM's Drake thinks so. "That social relationship proves valuable for sales consideration and retention," she said.




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Anheuser-Busch Is Plotting to Win the Super Bowl With Four Social Media Command Rooms

After taking over a Norwegian Cruise Ship in New York's Hudson River last year, Anheuser-Busch has another elaborate setup planned for this year's Super Bowl—including four social media command centers stationed around the country.

During the upcoming Super Bowl XLIX weekend in Glendale, Ariz., Bud Light will build an on-site activation dubbed "House of Whatever" to facilitate parties, concerts and activities. Within the experiential setup will be a social media command center, where reps from Bud Light, its creative agencies, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and its preferred marketing developers will huddle to create millennial-geared social content.

Anheuser-Busch hopes to recreate last year's social triumph when Budweiser won USA Today's 2014 Ad Meter. While a lot of that success came from pre-planned posts, Lucas Herscovici, vp of consumer connections at Anheuser-Busch, explained that it also included real-time content improvised during the game.

"We have a very strong relationship with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter," he said. "They work hand-in-hand with us to plan these campaigns to excel before, during and after [the game] and we feel it's important to have them in the room."

The strategy centers on giving the beer brand a local presence during Super Bowl weekend. But to amplify that reach, Anheuser-Busch will also set up social media centers in St. Louis, New York and Palo Alto, Calif., during the game.

While Bud Light will zero in on the Phoenix area (Glendale is a suburb), reps from Budweiser and agency Anomaly will staff the New York setup. St. Louis claims the headquarters for both brands, and the command center in Palo Alto is part of the beer giant's innovation lab.

Social competition
Herscovici declined to say which brands will run TV ads during the game, but said that the social media command centers are meant to fire up some friendly rivalry between its names. "We also like healthy competition so there are different brands that also compete against each other to be able to win the Super Bowl," he said.

This year's campaign builds on the "Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens" campaign that launched at last year's game. After the Super Bowl, Bud Light then took over the mountain town of Crested Butte, Colo., for a couple of days this summer with the social-heavy "Whatever USA" campaign.

"We know the importance of being real-time in today's world and today's events. We apply it in every single big event we have," Herscovici added.




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Cold Call: How Reuben Arnold is Making Flying More Social

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways has flown in turbulent skies in recent years, posting losses (albeit shrinking ones) since 2011. Just as the company was inching its way back into the black, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert on Oct. 31. Galactic is a separate company—one of roughly 80 that use the Virgin name—but public associations between it and VAA probably don’t help. It adds to the pressure on Reuben Arnold, Virgin Atlantic’s brand and customer engagement director (who operates like a CMO), who’s tasked with helping the carrier regain the youthful, maverick reputation it enjoyed in past years. Fortunately, he’s got a character as colorful as Branson to front the brand in the media. We caught up with Arnold—fittingly, between cities—to ask him what’s on his marketing runway.

Branson: Michael A. Schwarz/Bloomberg via Getty
Images; Virgin: EPA/Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic/
Handout

When it first flew in 1984, Virgin Atlantic was the swaggering newcomer that took on British Airways. Now that it’s an established carrier, is it hard to regain the mojo?
We say we’ve grown up, but we’ve not grown old. We have always been about innovating for the sake of the customer, not innovating and using new tech just for its own sake. For instance, our new 787 Dreamliners allow us to have more technical control of the in-flight lighting. So we mapped out the moments in time on a flight when people want to feel relaxed. We then programmed the lighting to enhance those emotional needs.

Has the coming of social media changed the behavior of fliers in the cabin? Do you have to cater to them differently?
Previously, the idea was to give flyers more privacy, and many airlines are still thinking that way. But modern travelers, especially business flyers, are gregarious and see a flight as a time to connect. Our research shows one in five flyers has done business with someone they met on a flight.

So what do you do?
For starters, we designed our upper class bar as a place to drink, work or meet new business associates. And on the 787 planes we offer economy premium customers the Wander Wall [a snack counter] where they can hang out, stretch their legs and interact.

Virgin Hotels are slated to open in Chicago next year and New York in 2016. Any tie-ins planned?
Since we are part of the Virgin family, we are definitely talking with them about ways to create unique experiences. Nothing is settled yet.

Virgin Atlantic has about 370,000 Facebook fans, but Emirates has 10 times that. What gives?
That’s an area where we have to do more. We are working to find the kind of content that people care about and that allows us to have a dialogue with them. We had a big success last year when Richard Branson posted a hoax tweet about a new glass-bottom plane flying from London to Scotland, which generated several thousand retweets.

Frequent flyers often say that one simple thing can make the difference between an ordinary flight and a happy one. Do you have a "one simple thing"?
Being able to have a genuine conversation with any of the crew. These encounters happen when crew members are intuitive enough to recognize when to leave me alone and when I might need something. It’s subtle, but it really matters.




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Brands Opt For Web Video Shops And Skip Creative Agencies

When Freshpet in September decided it wanted branded content, the pet food purveyor hired ShareAbility, a production house focused solely on producing YouTube videos, instead of going the traditional route of calling an agency.

At the time, a clip of an adorable 5-year-old, dubbed by the Internet as the Apparently Kid, was going viral and ShareAbility quickly snagged him for a one-off Freshpet video. The promo, which was released in mid-September, has been viewed 3.5 million times and shared more than 35,000 times on social media, while daily traffic to Freshpet has increased 416 percent.

ShareAbility and Freshpet now are expanding their relationship with a longer-term video strategy, including a Dec. 15 holiday-themed clip.

Increasingly, marketers like Freshpet are going directly to online production houses to produce Web video content. ShareAbility estimates that about 70 percent of its work comes directly from marketers and projects up to 90 percent next year.

"The Internet has changed everything in terms of how consumers find, curate and watch branded content, and this is putting tremendous pressure on traditional ad agencies," noted ShareAbility CEO Tim Staples. "Succeeding at YouTube requires an expertise that most general ad agencies don’t have, and the smart ones are not willing to risk a $50 million account for a $500,000 piece of content."

Summer with Cimorelli

Erika Trautman, CEO of Rapt Media, a technology platform that creates interactive Web videos, agreed, saying many of the production companies it works with have seen a marked increase in direct brand projects.

Typically, these simple concept ideas are not related to a broader campaign, meaning they don’t need the full strategy and cost of hiring a traditional agency, explained Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb. As an added bonus, digital studios are adept in turning things around quickly and know what’s viral. "It's about hiring execution," she said. "Agencies do a lot of strategy and ideation, which is sometimes not what you need. Sometimes, you just need to get stuff done."

But, while digital production house Content and Co. is confident they have the finger on what’s hot online and can produce more effective content, it does acknowledge that agencies are necessary when it comes to executing a full campaign.

For instance, Content and Co. came up with a five-episode scripted Web comedy for Subway featuring YouTube a cappella group Cimorelli called Summer With Cimorelli. While Content and Co. handled the production, it relied on Subway’s agencies for in-store activations, broadcast spots and other means. Each episode’s views ranged from 650,000 to 1.3 million, and sources say the series is in development for a second season.

"Where the production companies can fall short is if the brand is in need of a greater strategic vision, including distribution and how you’re going to get in front of your target audience," said Rapt Media’s Trautman. "I have seen production companies lose business because they can't compete at that level."




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Here Are This Year’s Digital Hot List Winners

Kevin Systrom
Co-Founder, Instagram

This 30-year-old has famously labored over the creative of every Instagram ad from brands like Ben & Jerry’s and State Farm to ensure the promos fit his platform’s ethos. And it's this kind of attention-to-detail leadership that has made his mobile app worthy of a $1 billion purchase by Facebook two years ago and deserving of the devotion of 200 million fanatical users, from Beyoncé to George W. Bush.




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Winners of Adweek’s 2014 Hot List Are Revealed

What a year in media. Prime-time's drama queen Shonda Rhimes—plus literally anything HBO did—kept us from cutting the cord. Netflix, Instagram and Minecraft continued to dominate our digital lives, while apps like Uber, Tinder and Kik achieved must-have status. Jack Ma—who led his e-commerce behemoth, China's Alibaba, to a $25 billion IPO—earned his place as our Media Visionary for 2014. Print, yet again, proved that it is as relevant as ever, with a nearly 150-year-old magazine, fashion icon Harper’s Bazaar, trucking out its fattest issue ever and earning the title Magazine of the Year. This, as the inescapable Kim Kardashian broke the Internet not once but twice after appearing on the covers of Vogue, then Paper.

For our annual ranking of the hottest media brands and media people, Adweek's editors and staff weighed in on those doing the most outstanding job of building audience, business and buzz. Advertising and newsstand results, ratings, downloads, cultural influence—we spent weeks considering these and other metrics to arrive at this list. And once again, we asked you to pick your own favorites in our Readers’ Choice poll. That you did. A record 3.2 million votes were cast at Adweek.com between Sept. 1 and Dec. 3. (A shout-out to Hot List's most devoted followers, the “Bronies,” who helped make The Hub’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic the Readers’ Choice for Hottest Kids Show—doing their damnedest to help us break the Internet.) Now, presenting the winners of this year's Hot List and Readers’ Choice.
 

The 2014 Hot List winners:
Magazines | Television | Digital | Media Visionary | Reader's Poll




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