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Native? Social? Both?

This summer, I interned at SocialToaster, a social media marketing agency that turns a company’s existing social media following into a team of organized brand ambassadors. Part of my job was to create blog posts and other marketing materials that reinforced SocialToaster’s core business concept, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned regarding native advertising and social media marketing.

Native Advertising: You’ve probably heard this term if you’ve kept up to date on the latest digital marketing trends. In short, native advertising is a form of communication that smoothly integrates with a user’s experience on a website or application. For instance, if you see a sponsored Facebook post that tells a story about a company’s new product, this is a native advertisement because it is part of the user’s core experience (i.e., not a banner ad). Online brand ambassador programs are also forms of native advertising: for instance, Maker’s Mark offers incentives for its ambassadors to share content about its brand.

Social Media Marketing, though, is the use of social media platforms to market a company to consumers or businesses. Examples of social media marketing are banner ads on Facebook, a company’s Twitter posts, or Instagram pictures with links directed towards purchasing or other landing pages. Social media marketing encompasses the development of marketing programs targeted at a company’s existing and intended social media audience.

Can Native and Social Intersect? Yes. For example, SocialToaster’s Super Fans (brand ambassadors) can earn prizes for posting a company’s message as a status update or sharing its content on Twitter. Native advertising can be seamlessly integrated into social media marketing because people use social media all the time. Therefore, native advertising and social media marketing are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are two effective forms of marketing that work incredibly well together.

InfluenceofBuying

The Numbers: Consider some facts from a recent Gallup poll:

  • 94% of social media users do so to connect with friends and family
  • 62% of social media users do not believe social media influences their purchasing decisions
  • 29% of social media users use these platforms to keep up on product reviews and trends

That 94% is important, because it means that over 9/10 people who use social media connect with people they (hopefully) trust. Now, if you’re part of the nearly 30% who use, say, Facebook for product recommendations, what are you more likely to look to as a source: a friend’s recommendation, or a banner advertisement? If your friend is a Maker’s Mark brand ambassador and posts a picture of delicious bourbon on Facebook, you’re statistically more likely to click on this post than you are to entertain a traditional advertisement.

But do you even realize your friend’s recommendation for Maker’s Mark is an advertisement? According to the study, 62% of the time, you will not.

And that’s why native advertisements on social media work. Companies can employ people you trust to recommend their products, meaning you might not even realize when you’re being advertised to. But you might find some great products in the process!

-David

JHU Graduate Produces Mother’s Day Video.

Ever since I started my graduate school adventure at Miami Ad School San Francisco (a portfolio school for advertising), I have been shown the true value of personal projects.

Personal projects that allow one to freely execute a campaign without being limited by the corporate aspects of advertising; personal projects that encourage individuals to pursue something true to themselves, while having fun playing with social norms.

This is how the idea of “Call Your Mom” came about. Everyday, we walk by so many strangers without interacting with them at all. My team and I wanted to break this social norm and get to know strangers in a unique way – by gaining insight into their relationship with their moms.

We therefore took to the streets of San Francisco and asked people when they had last called their moms. The end result was beautiful, and fully supported a notion we strongly believe in: if you are passionate about an idea, go and execute it. The benefits of advertising don’t just have to come from the professional workplace.

 Jiayi Wang ’13

I hope you enjoy it …

My Movie Internship: Hollywood Is Just As Business-Orientated As Wall Street.

Many people overlook the fact that Hollywood is just as business-orientated as Wall Street. From a strictly business perspective, a movie is a staggering—and very risky—investment: producers and studios can pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a single production in hopes that the revenue generated from ticket sales, home-video sales, merchandise, etc. will turn a profit. Investing in a movie is precarious because of the underlying notion that no one can predict whether or not a movie will be good, and if it is good, if audiences will want to see it and purchase tickets. In order to dilute the risk factors, then, studios rely on securing high-profile celebrities and creative teams, reverting to known blockbuster genres, remaking classic hits, and making sequel after sequel (Saw 7, anyone?).

Unsurprisingly, box office sales are the primary way a movie earns money, and most movies earn close to 50% of their domestic gross in their opening weekends. The rare exceptions are the movies with strong legs, like Gravity or Avatar, which hold well in the marketplace for continuous weeks. Thus, luring audiences into the theater that opening weekend is especially critical, and consequently studios carefully deliberate release dates and spend huge amount of money marketing a film. In fact, most tent-pole movies (a movie, usually a blockbuster, that ‘holds up’ or balances out a studio’s financial performance, e.g. Despicable Me 2 or Harry Potter; they’re often expected to turn a profit in a relatively short amount of time) can have advertising budgets comparable to their production budgets. That is to say, if a movie’s cost is $80 million, it could have close to that in marketing efforts behind it. Additionally, if a studio knows a movie is going to be a flop, and they generally do, they might increase or decrease the marketing budget, either to make one last push to persuade audiences to see the film or to cut their losses. Securing a strong opening weekend turnout is also the reason why movies with widespread critical acclaim publicize their reviews early, while studios with flops on their hands tend to keep poor reviews under wraps until the last possible moment in order to prevent them from discouraging audiences.

From trailers and posters to TV spots and other publicity efforts such as Comic-Con parties and online presences, creative advertising attempts to both raise awareness about the movie as well as highlight it as worthy of the ten-dollar ticket price to see it on the big screen. A film’s trailer is without question its strongest advocate, and as such, most studios begin creating a trailer months in advance of its release. Studio executives work with the filmmakers as well as with external production companies (known as trailer houses) that specialize in either print (the poster) or audio-visual (the trailer) media to design a campaign that positions the movie in a particular, meticulously crafted light. Everything from the music and dialogue to the font of the copy (text) to the emotion the trailer evokes is highly scrutinized and debated because the trailer is not only the first glimpse audiences will have of the movie, but also, if constructed successfully, the most influential marketing tool.

Executives begin researching the campaign by reading the film’s script and watching trailers for similar movies. They study those trailers to understand what worked well and what did not, but to see how other marketing departments have approached a related topic: what angle on the story did they take? Was the focus more on the visuals or on the story? How much of the plot was revealed and in what ways? While they are researching, executives meet with filmmakers to decide how they want to advertise the film, read the script, and look at dailies. Dailies are visuals (both photo and video) of everything that has been filmed, uncut, on a single day; as filming progresses, the quantity of dailies increases and the executives have more footage to work with. The creative process really begins here, when executives work with trailer houses to select and edit the footage, piecing together the trailer that aligns with their vision about how they want the film to appear. The trailer houses send a number of versions of each cut of the trailer to the executive, each with varying music, copy, visuals, etc. The executive then considers what works well and what needs to be changed, and the trailer houses then make the edits. This editing and re-editing usually lasts several weeks. Once the trailer is ready, and the filmmakers have given their approval, the trailer is usually screened before several test audiences of various demographics. These test audiences comment on not only whether or not they like the trailer, but if the trailer is effective at accomplishing what the studio intended, e.g. was the film’s plot clear? did the jokes work?  When the trailer is finally ready, it ships, or is released.

Timing the shipping of trailers is crucial, as there are often specific movies to which the executives want them to be attached or accompany. Attaching a trailer to a movie means that the trailer will always play before a certain movie in the theater; the term comes from when the actual 35mm film of trailer would have to be physically attached to the film of the movie. Perhaps the most well-known recent instance of this was Warner Bros. attachment of Man of Steel’s teaser to The Dark Knight Rises. Studios can also vary attachment based on theater type, i.e. if you go and see the newest Thor in 3D, you would have been treated to a five-minute sneak peak of the upcoming Captain America. This strategy is more commonly exhibited with IMAX screens, as an added incentive to pay the higher ticket price. If a trailer accompanies a feature, it will often play before that film, but it doesn’t have to. Studios work with theaters to have their trailer shown before a movie, but the theaters have the final say and usually make their decision based on the expected audience of the film playing and the release date of the advertised film. In other words, the theater might not choose to screen a horror trailer before the latest Pixar film. This is why if you see a movie in theaters more than once, there may be different trailers before it each time, or if you see a movie at a different theater, there will also be different trailers.

While premiering a trailer in theaters remains the most common approach, in recent years studios have begun exploring other avenues by which to do so, such as on late night talk show’s (Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy trailer premiered on Jimmy Kimmel), during major television events (Universal’s Neighbors, the new Seth Rogen comedy, first aired its trailer during the Roast of James Franco), or at events such as Comic Con. This strategy is becoming increasingly popular, as with certain events or television programs, studios can target a more specific demographic. With the ability to watch trailers anytime online, the timing of shipping the trailer might appear to have lost some of its importance, but the opposite is true. The Internet can create immense hype for a film when a trailer is released and shared across various social media platforms, and studios need to time this hype to prevent it from coming and going too soon.

– Andrew Townson ’14 atownson@jhu.ed

Selfie Nation

A few years ago, I would cringe when I saw a selfie posted on a social media website, immediately thinking of the selfie bathroom pictures that frequented Myspace. However, the selfie has surged in popularity, with self-taken photos and videos being utilized as a tool for self-promotion and expression. Even Oxford Dictionaries highlighted the trend when it proclaimed the selfie to be the 2013 word of the year.

President Obama's famous selfie at the Nelson Mandela memorial

President Obama’s famous selfie at the Nelson Mandela memorial

Companies have released a wave of selfie marketing campaigns, aiming to transform their customer relations by focusing on individual experiences with their products. Instead of producing professional and poised photos, brands have tapped into user-generated content. Raw and unedited evoke feelings of trust, as consumers rely upon each other to identify new deals, brands, and trends.

Coach has launched a particularly successful selfie marketing campaign with its #coachfromabove hashtag. Customers are encouraged to share pictures of their Coach shoes around the world on Twitter and Instagram, with the possibility of being featured on the official company website. Other companies, such as Applebee’s, are using self-taken videos as a promotional tool. Applebee’s is giving customers the chance to be featured in national TV commercials by posting their reactions to new menu items on Vine with the hashtag #BeeFamous. Even museums have caught onto the selfie trend by promoting this past January 22 as #MuseumSelfie Day, sparking fun and ridiculous selfies posted by museum enthusiasts across the globe.

A selfie of Eminem with the Mona Lisa

A selfie of Eminem with the Mona Lisa

However, some selfie campaigns have drawn mixed reviews, such as Dove’s selfie film for their Campaign for Real Beauty. In the film, women exhibited self-portraits and wrote complimentary notes to one another. Although the video promotes redefining standards of beauty, critics have scoffed that the video is contrived – and obviously so, as the video is ultimately designed to sell Dove’s beauty products. Many selfie videos are artificial and contrived, such as the Turkish Airlines YouTube video featuring Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi. The two athletes have a staged selfie shootout, and the fun and successful video has over 130 million views.

Celebrities have also come under public scrutiny for posting too many selfies on social media. In reponse to critics, James Franco wrote a defense of the selfie for the New York Times, emphasizing that the selfie is a legitimate and powerful tool for self-promotion. He wrote, “selfies are avatars: Mini-me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are.” Over the past year, I’ve come to terms with the selfie. I’ll send selfies to friends on Snapchat, and even upload a selfie to Instagram or Facebook every once in a while.

One of James Franco's many sefies

One of James Franco’s many sefies

A selfie I took in Havana, Cuba by the Malecon

A selfie I took in Havana, Cuba by the Malecon

Do you use selfies on social media? Should businesses continue to use selfies in marketing campaigns, or do you think there will be a new trend that will redefine social media marketing in 2014?

– Kara

How the Internet and Advertising Technology Destroyed Newspapers.

Newspaperdeathwatch.com” dedicates itself to “chronicling the decline of newspapers and the rebirth of journalism,” and tracks an ever-growing list of newspapers that have gone bankrupt since 2007 when the site began. Dozens of revered daily newspapers have closed their doors in the wake of one of the most pronounced cases ever of technology disruption of an industry. All newspapers, especially those that focus on local news, have faced shutdown or drastically downsized operations.

The reason for this decline has less to do with the fact that readers consume news on their computers, tablets, and phones as most people suspect. Readership numbers are not down; if anything, total reader numbers have surged since the internet has made content more accessible for local newspapers. Rather, the decline has occurred due to fundamental issues of supply and demand of “advertising inventory,” which represents total, sellable available advertising space. The internet, as well as advertising technology, has created infinite advertising inventory in a world that previously had a finite amount inventory, all of which sat with newspapers and magazines.

Newspaper Advertising Revenue
In 1994 if a brand wanted to reach a national audience that reads news, or on a specific day (rather than a weekly or monthly magazine), that brand could advertise on either The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, and to an extent The Washington Post and USA Today. Advertising inventory to target newspaper readers was scarce, and limited to these newspapers with a broad reach. Newspapers contained a fixed amount of pages and square inches that could house advertisements, and with this limited supply came a high price for advertising space, and incredible power and influence for these newspapers. Rumors of the golden age for advertising salespeople include tales of newspaper ad salespeople being entertained, perversely, by brands that hoped to be moved up a “wait list” for advertising placements. Life was good for newspapers.

As the internet grew exponentially in the late 1990’s, so did the amount of advertising inventory. Any person with an internet connection and a blog was technically a “publisher,” and could procure content to a large audience similar to a newspaper. With more content came more advertising inventory, and suddenly major newspapers were no longer the sole purveyors of this finite source of advertising inventory. Advertising inventory could be found everywhere on the web. In 2003, Google opened the advertising floodgates by creating a network called “Adsense” that allowed publishers (even your roommate with a video game blog) to sell advertising space, and in a way that would be more “targeted” than newspapers. An advertiser that only wanted to advertise to video game buyers could do so a lot more efficiently by running on your roommate’s blog than he could on, say, the Wall Street Journal.

With these innovations, in an extremely simple “supply and demand” scenario, the supply of advertising inventory surged, so the price of advertising space dropped considerably. Much of this expanded inventory came at the hands of Google Adsense and a few other networks. Surprising to some, roughly 95% of Google’s revenue (which was $50 billion in 2012) comes from advertising. Google is, at its core, an advertising company.

Because the value of advertising units has plummeted, newspapers today simply drive less revenues, whether print or digital. And the unfortunate newspapers with operations that require higher prices for advertising sales than the market was paying, found themselves underwater and on possibly newspaperdeathwatch.com. Hit especially hard were the local, smaller newspapers that could not attract advertisers the way that larger, farther reaching newspapers could.

In the next article I will explore how advertising technology, despite bringing an industry to its knees, is now rewarding and leading a resurrection for premium newspapers that have a strong brand and broad reach.

Tripp Weber graduated Johns Hopkins in 2009 with an International Relations major and Entrepreneurship and Management Minor. He currently works as an Advertising Manager for the New York Times.

– Tripp Weber

Successful Media Monitoring at maslansky + partners.

In expanding on my internship with maslansky + partners (m+p) from this past summer, I can definitively say that the firm understands the importance of monitoring both social media and the greater media in general.  Founded on the principle—“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear. ®”—maslansky + partners practices what they preach by making sure they are constantly in tune with the media.  As m+p takes on a project, they make it their responsibility to help a client share their story with their audience.  And part of this responsibility involves knowing what has been said in the past and what is being said in the present, so they can properly help the client tell their story for the future.  This is extremely important, since m+p will only be able to appropriately recommend a strategy if they approach the situation with a complete understanding of the client’s identity, both perceived and defined.

There are several ways in which m+p filers through the media—through Google alerts, a collected ad database, in depth focus groups, and through an analysis process called WireTap™.  Google alerts are one of the most underutilized services available to the public for free.  Provided by the search engine Google, users are able to receive email alerts customizable by their interests, which can range from general news to specific keywords.  The firm also maintains a collection of advertisements, which not only offer an in house resource for m+p staff, but also for the general public (http://ads.maslansky.com/).

Social media monitoring

The advertisements are entered with key information (context, industry, publication, etc.) that allows users to filter through them.  Another way that m+p listens to the general public is through in depth focus group sessions.  These focus group sessions are designed to understand how a particular client is perceived by its audience, which is done through exercises, question and answer sessions, and individual interviews.  Depending on the client, these can be the most lucrative for comprehending an organization’s presence within society, due to the unfiltered nature of the sessions.  The final aspect in which m+p works to understand a client’s target audience, specifically through social media, is through their WireTap™ Analysis.  This is a social media report that helps identify and analyze target language sourced from social media interactions.  In addition, this report allows m+p to understand and hear the specific opinions and conversations being communicated on the World Wide Web.

In a society full of distrust, it is valuable to understand the power of language.  Monitoring and being aware of what is being said through public opinion allows one to harness this power.  Lucky for us, we are fortunate to have many resources today that help aid us in this process.  All that’s left is for us to take advantage of it.

– Kathrin

Rebranding a Fallen Hero: The Orioles’ New Marketing Strategy

Any baseball fans out there?

Wednesday, November 6th, the Baltimore Orioles Vice President of Marketing Greg Bader spoke at the Hopkins campus to an audience of 35 Hopkins affiliates and the Loyola AMA president. The Johns Hopkins chapter of the American Marketing Association hosted the event in Hackerman B17. Bader, who has been with the Orioles for 20 seasons, started his presentation by engaging the audience with a simple question.

“How many of you are Orioles fans?”

JHU AMA Vice President Liz Bagdorf (left) and the Baltimore Orioles VP of Marketing Greg Bader

JHU AMA Vice President Liz Bagdorf (left) and the Baltimore Orioles VP of Marketing Greg Bader

Bader candidly spoke about the Orioles’ historically successful record by noting that the home team enjoyed great success from 1960-1997, holding either the best or second best records in the league for a nearly 40-year period. This set the stage for Bader’s grim account of the Orioles’ not too distant past:

  • From 1998-2011, the Orioles lost 1276 games while only winning 990.
  • That’s 14 consecutive losing seasons.
  • In this period, annual attendance dropped by 2 million fans to just over 1.5 million per year.

The Orioles marketing department had its work cut out for it. Bader noted that “any team in a downward spiral needs to think about what it stands for,” and explained the five principles of his latest marketing campaign for the team:

  1. Fun. The ballpark is an escape from reality, and, at the end of the day, baseball is just a game.
  2. Partnership. “We’re all in this together,” said Bader, referring to the fans and surrounding community.
  3. Family. Stories of the ballpark should be passed down from generation to generation, and an Orioles game is a family-oriented event.
  4. Tradition. “This is a historically great team. We want to remind people that summers in Baltimore wouldn’t be the same without the Orioles.”
  5. Community. Camden Yards and the Orioles have been defining features of Baltimore for nearly 60 years.

Primary Tactics:

  • Re-instate the cartoon bird logo
  • Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Oriole Park
  • Improve the ballpark
  • Introduce the Orioles Legends celebration series

orioles_logo_2012

The 2012 Season (following the campaign’s implementation):

  1. The team had a 93W-69L record, a winning record for the first time in 15 seasons
  2. The Orioles were in the top 5 in the MLB for social media followers growth
  3. In September 2012, the Orioles sold the third most merchandise in the league (largely thanks to the cartoon bird logo!)
  4. Attendance grew past the 2 million annual attendees mark.

Bader said that the team’s winning season was definitely helpful to the club, but winning is not everything. “Winning is a huge part of a team’s identity, and winning definitely helped us meet our campaign’s goals. But if we had just relied on winning, we would not have been able to reach two million fans again.”

IMG_5712

Bader mentioned that anyone interested in working for the Orioles should “spend as much time there” and get to know people in the organization. Job opportunities with the Orioles are available here, and Bader maintains that the experience has been “an exciting opportunity.” As a lifelong baseball fan myself, the idea of working for a ball club seems more tantalizing than a 4.0 GPA.

– David