As retailers vie for attention in the annual back-to-school spending season, US footwear brand Converse and Swedish retailer Ikea are appealing directly to young consumers with campaigns in web-ready formats.
Young English actress Millie Bobbie Brown (who plays Eleven in Netflix's series Stranger Things) has lent her talents to Converse's new First Day Feels campaign. Tapping into students' need for expression, Converse captured Brown emoting suitable reactions to the start of another academic year. Packaged into 32 gifs, the content is ready for sharing across chat platforms and social media. Gifs are a central part of online consumer communications, with gif-hosting platform Giphy currently valued at $600m.
Oddly Ikea is the furniture brand's attempt to reach dorm-bound college students with an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) video series. ASMR is a tingly, semi-euphoric sensation some people feel when listening to repetitive, soothing sound effects. The Ikea campaign counteracts the stresses of starting a new school year with a narrator whispering about and smoothing out soft furnishings in an Ikea-outfitted dorm room. The slow nature of ASMR video also lets Ikea deliver a lot of information about its products – a rare opportunity in a digital information landscape that is otherwise starved for time and attention. However, the brand could have shown more due diligence by partnering with an influencer from the existing ASMR YouTube community.
Our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups can help you stay up to date with online media formats. For more on gifs, see Five New Channels for Social Media Marketing.
A new report from UK publisher Trinity Mirror and UK market research firm Ipsos Mori reveals that 49% of British consumers distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising. "Across our qualitative sample, the same complaint cropped up again and again: brands and advertising are perceived to be out of touch and too London-centric," the report states. "People still don't perceive their own lives to be represented in advertising."
The report states that "explicitly demonstrating to your audience that you are talking to them – on their turf – will go a long way to dispel the establishment prejudices that exist."
A similar conclusion was reached earlier this year by a study from global ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi. In a survey of consumers across 30 small American towns, 95% of respondents said having a sense of pride in where they currently live is important.
Eve Pollet, trends and innovation strategist for Saatchi & Saatchi, told Adweek: "The marketer takeaway here can be to celebrate these small-town origins through an event or product and celebrate this pride of place... and give consumers something tangible to be prideful of."
Apple addressed these desires for more representation of non-urban, 'anti-establishment' communities in advertising with its latest Apple Music commercial, released in July. Featuring country music singer Brantley Gilbert, the ad is overtly pitched at rural Middle America, with Gilbert stating, "This is my home: no matter where I go, my heart stays here."
Apple is clearly facing up to the challenges of marketing in the post-Trump era, when suspicion of so-called urban 'elites' – politicians, big business, media and, of course, brands like Apple itself – is rife. For more on this subject, see Marketing to Divided America and Brands Take a Stand.
Icelandic brand Eyri Iceland Mattresses launched a new marketing campaign this week aimed at the recently divorced. The proposition of Splitsville – according to LP/AD, the Canadian ad agency behind it – is that a good mattress is key to surviving heartbreak.
The campaign features endorsements from renowned New York divorce attorneys (the mattresses are "divorce-lawyer approved"), a 50% off deal ("if you have to lose half, then so will we"), and cross-promotion on Tinder, where Eyri assumes many of its potential customers will be hanging out post-breakup. There's also a (fairly basic) chatbot created by US artificial intelligence firm Motion AI that aims to mimic the kind of arguments people have with their exes.
It's a smart campaign that targets a demographic few brands engage with. In the past year, we've seen Ikea touch on the subject with its Where Life Happens campaign, and Ford Denmark's short film Familien, but little else. It's a risky theme to tackle, but this is clearly a demographic that wants to be represented in marketing – Familien has notched up more than 200,000 views on YouTube since March 2016.
As we discuss in New Attitudes to Love & Sex, it's crucial for marketers to broaden their definitions of romance and relationships. There's also a huge opportunity for brands to tap into more niche, even negative emotions to reach new audiences. See Brands Take a Stand for more.
FMCG giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) has released an ad chronicling Black mothers having to talk to their children about racial bias. The video, entitled The Talk is part of P&G's decade-old My Black is Beautiful initiative for positive representation of Black women.
In fictional scenarios recreating very real conversations across several decades, The Talk addresses everyday symptoms of racism like peer bullying, academic and professional discrimination, and police violence. The ad ends with the phrase, "Let's all talk about 'the talk' so we can end the need to have it", and a referral to the hashtag #TalkAboutBias.
What distinguishes this campaign from less successful social consciousness brand messages seen earlier this year is that P&G doesn't try to add a positive – possibly brand-enabled – spin on the issue. Instead, the brand uses its platform to highlight a dimension of parenting that many people will never have to face. P&G stressed that "every aspect of the film included the essential contributions and guidance of creatives, producers, filmmakers and clients of colour."
"Our goal with The Talk is to help raise awareness about the impact of bias," said Damon Jones, director of global company communications at P&G. "We are also hopeful that we can make progress toward a less biased future by recognising the power of people of all backgrounds and races showing up for one another."
For more on the opportunities and pitfalls of socially responsible brand messaging, see our Diversity Outlook Innovation Platform, Brands Take a Stand from our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend, and Surviving Marketing Fails.
For World Emoji Day on July 17 (the date featured on the calendar emoji), London's Royal Opera House (@RoyalOperaHouse) partnered with Twitter to retell the stories of famous operas and ballets using only emoji. Members of the public could win pairs of tickets by correctly guessing which stories were being retold.
"We grab any opportunity to tell narratives and teaming up with Twitter means we do this at an unprecedented scale," said Jeremy Paul, head of marketing communications, audiences and media at the Royal Opera House. "It's part of a strategy to pivot into dialogue platforms like Twitter."
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF Moma) is also using the power of dialogue to connect to new audiences. The museum has launched a text-messaging service through which people can receive artworks from its archive in response to moods, keywords, or emoji they send.
SF Moma has 34,678 artworks in its collection, of which the museum can only display about 5% at a time. According to Keir Winesmith, head of web and digital platforms for SF Moma, skipping apps or mobile sites in favour of a text-messaging service was the best way to minimise barriers between the public and SF Moma.
Exploring channels that are accessible to broader audiences is key for any brand, and it's important that they use language that aligns with digital culture. For the latest developments in online communities' modes of communication, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups. For more on mobile engagement, see The Messaging Opportunity.
To promote the release of Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: Homecoming film in the US, multinational computer technology company Dell and global outdoor advertising company Kinetic have created a multiplayer game on digital billboards in New York's Times Square.
Pedestrians passing by the two stacked digital billboards running the campaign can visit a website on their mobile phones to join the game. Four players at a time get to use controls on their phone to race their scrambling Spider-Man characters up the digital billboards. Complete with high-score leaderboards, the campaign turns part of the city into a video game arcade. The experience is powered by Dell hardware, and it comes with interstitial ads promoting Dell's Inspiron 15 gaming laptop.
In Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory, part of our Invisible Marketing Industry Trend, we explored the use of personal devices and digital billboards to anticipate and respond to consumer needs in the moment, giving them information and services to remove friction from their day. By contrast, Dell's campaign is more of an intervention during the everyday, providing a playful incentive for consumers to linger with branded content.
Creating communal experiences by linking individual devices is a key direction: As personal digital experiences become more sophisticated, brands and marketers have an interest in keeping them open for interaction. For more on teasing out the communal opportunities of personal devices, see Retail's VR Future: Communal Digital and our Pop Culture Round-Up: May 2017.
For Ramadan, Pepsi rolled out a mobile video campaign to celebrate the communal spirit of the Islamic holy month.
During Ramadan, Muslims commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Mohammed by fasting during daylight hours. At sundown, communities come together to break the day's fast together. Under its Let's Get Together campaign for Ramadan, Pepsi worked with ad agency Impact BBDO Cairo to create a mobile video cut up into three vertical frames.
When an individual mobile user came across the ads, they were encouraged to find two friends. Together, a group of three could each select one section of the video, place their phones next to one another and hit play simultaneously to enjoy the whole story – a tale of three friends who fail to connect in the moment because they're glued to their devices. The ad concludes by telling users that now they are together, they should devote their attention to each other instead of their phones.
Ramadan has a huge impact across Middle East and North African markets (MENA), and in global Muslim communities, with noticeable scheduling and habit shifts. Facebook MENA, for instance, reports that users spend 5% longer on their platform during the month. Pepsi worked this insight into the campaign to promote its brand as well as improved community spirit.
To read more on engaging young Muslim consumers, see Gen M: Millennial Muslim Entrepreneurs and Instagangs: Modest Dressers. For more on digital hangouts and collective consumption on personal devices, see Retail's VR Future: Communal Digital and our January 2017 Pop Culture Round-Up.
Unilever skincare brand Dove is stepping up its commitment to body-positive narratives with Real Beauty Productions – a partnership with American TV producer and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder).
Inspired by a study that shows 69% of women don't feel represented on-screen, Dove turned to Rhimes' considerable professional expertise in portraying women to refresh its 13-year-old Real Beauty body-positivity brand mission. For the duration of the partnership, Real Beauty Productions will focus on turning real customers' stories (sourced from Dove and Rhimes' social media accounts) into compelling videos. The first project is Meet Cathleen – a short film about Cathleen Meredith, founder of body-positive initiative Fat Girls Dance.
As brands compete for digital consumers' atomised attention, they are increasingly joining forces with highly regarded entertainment talent to upgrade their brand narratives. Spanish beer brand Estrella Damm has just released two short films starring Hollywood actors. French cult actor Jean Reno charms international markets in The Little Things, while American actor Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones features in La Vida Nuestra, a Spanish-language short about a young man who leaves Spain to seek employment in Amsterdam.
With research predicting the obsolescence of interruptive advertising, high-quality branded content is likely to emerge as a powerful engagement tool. For more on how brands are preparing for the future of digital engagement, check out Dimensions of Trust: One Question London and our coverage of D&AD Festival 2017.
Launched to coincide with Mother's Day in May, ad firm Mother New York's The Pregnancy Pause campaign aims to redefine maternity leave. The project highlights the stigma attached to "gaps" in resumes caused by many new mothers leaving their jobs because of inadequate maternity-leave policies.
"We wanted to give working mothers in the US a simple tool, and make it easier for them to own maternity leave as the full-time job it truly is," said Mother New York's chief creative officer Corinna Falusi. To that end, mothers can now update their LinkedIn profiles to say they work for The Pregnancy Pause during maternity leave, and even use the virtual company as a reference on their resumes – a real phone number is provided for prospective employers to call.
The issue of maternity and paternity leave is becoming more pronounced as millennials enter the workforce and expect flexibility – willing to take, on average, a $7,600 pay cut for improved work-life balance (Fidelity, 2016).
Brands are increasingly tapping into this trend. Alaska Air has just enabled elite members of its frequent flyers Mileage Plan to extend their membership to cover parental leave. "This is just one less thing for new parents to worry about," said Natalie Bowman, managing director of brand marketing. Meanwhile, British beer brand BrewDog has introduced Puppy Parental Leave – offering all employees with new dogs a week off to look after them.
See Brands Take a Stand for more on changing bad narratives.
Australia's Millennials Marketing Conference, held in Melbourne on May 25, brought together some of the biggest players in the Australia and New Zealand media sphere to discuss millennial attitudes and the future of marketing.
Build Trust Through Humour
"Millennials want the truth – in fact, they demand it. The winning brands are those who can put truth at the centre of what they do," said Jessica Hackett, group marketing manager for The Urban List, an Australia-New Zealand media brand that sees 2.4 million unique visits each month.
According to research from The Urban List, humour came out on top as a tool for gaining trust, with digital media recognised as more trustworthy than print. In fact, 50% of millennial respondents claimed to be cynical of brands that take themselves too seriously, with a further 50% saying they are more trusting of brands that have a sense of humour.
Mark Henning, head of media (Australia) at market research and insights group Kantar Millward Brown, acknowledged that humour is a fantastic method for communicating across generations. He referenced The Boys ad campaign from Australian clothing brand Bonds as a game-changer in the Australian market. The campaign invited viewers to "take a sneak peek at life inside your undies".
"Ad-avoidance strategies are increasing – 32% of millennials living in Australia claim to have installed an ad blocker – so you need to keep it fun, and make sure that what you are doing fits well with the platform to make it effective in that environment," Henning commented.
Motion is the New Filter
Mobile video content was a hot topic. Paul Nahoun, travel industry lead for Facebook (Australia and New Zealand), highlighted that brands need to understand how audiences interact with their smartphones and then build video content around this – with a focus on pre-loaded content and new formats.
"Motion is the new filter when it comes to social media imagery," said Nahoun. "It doesn't have to be a big video production – motion applied to beautiful still imagery can be incredibly useful – however brands need to own the real estate that mobile provides and move towards square and vertical moving imagery."
Nahoun referenced AWOL, a travel media platform created by Australian media company Junkee and airline Qantas, as a benchmark for Instagram video content. AWOL's 15-second vertical video stories resulted in a three-point increase in brand awareness during a month-long campaign.
Stig Richards of Junkee said post-millennial generations are not digital natives, but mobile natives, who communicate with images and video instead of text. Punkee, which launched in May 2017, is Junkee's first mobile-only major media brand. It targets Gen Z audiences with vertical video as the primary focus. Content pillars are internet culture, TV, music, parties, viral videos, gaming, memes and movies. Regardless of pillar, Richards commented: "The big-ticket item is now short, sharp video."
Mass Mattering, Not Mass Marketing
Dion Appel, managing director of DDB Australia and founder of creative marketing agency Lifelounge, emphasised the millennial hunger for genuine emotional connection. "We need to be moving people, not telling them," he commented. "It's about mass mattering, not mass marketing."
Appel's key areas for marketers to learn from included "recipronomics" (creating cultural impact), authentic disruption that is based on transparency, 'real' experiences, and 'show, don't tell' marketing approaches. Tiger Beer's Air Ink graffiti ink and paint (made from soot harvested from air pollution in Hong Kong) and the Light Phone (a credit card-sized mobile phone only used for calls) were mentioned as significant projects that place genuine connection at their forefront.
For more on marketing to millennials, see Marketing to LGBTQ Consumers, State of Mobile: Global Youth Focus, and Youth Marketing Strategy 2017. For more on tackling issues of trust, see Rebuilding Consumer Trust: Advertising Week Europe 2017.
Augmented reality (AR) advertising is a growing trend, as consumers become more familiar with the technology via Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go. We highlight the latest AR media, marketing and advertising innovations.
US deodorant brand Axe continues its mission to reframe masculinity for a more diverse world (see The Art of Rebranding) with its new Is It OK for Guys To? campaign.
The video shows scenarios based on typical male online searches, highlighting the fears some men have about sharing their anxieties openly. Questions include "Is it OK to not like sport?" and "Is it OK to be a virgin?"
The campaign was motivated by a statistic from gender justice organisation Promundo, which revealed 57% of men have been told how a 'real man' should behave. "We want guys to see there's no holds barred on what men can or cannot be," commented Rik Strubel, global vice-president of Axe. "We need to help more men by tackling toxic masculinity head on." In the era of Trump and the alt-right, toxic masculinity has become a key cultural issue.
In a further move, Axe's UK brand Lynx teamed up with Calm (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) to launch the Calm Photography Movement. Photographers were encouraged to upload images that, according to Simon Gunning, Calm's CEO, "tell stories about our experiences of masculinity, what it means to be a man, and how we can tackle that old stereotype of needing a stiff upper lip".
The winning pictures were displayed this week – Mental Health Week – at London's Getty Images Gallery. They were also curated into a catalogue available for purchase in support of Calm's work towards preventing male suicide.
Crowdsourced navigation and traffic app Waze is promoting Disney's upcoming Pixar Studios film Cars 3 by making the film's characters part of the driving experience.
In the first promotion of this kind on Waze, drivers can change the app's visuals and voice interface to embody characters from the film – which happen to be anthropomorphic cars – as they travel from A to B.
Users can choose to be accompanied on their journey by the film franchise's lead character, Lightning McQueen, or use their transit time to get acquainted with new character Jackson Storm. As the mid-June release of the third instalment in the series approaches, Waze will also include branded pins and driving directions to cinemas.
At South by Southwest festival this year, Disney Consumer Products' senior vice-president and chief technology officer Mike White discussed the significance of translating Disney's characters across digital platforms. It's central to "making the brand work in those ubiquitous moments – three minutes on the subway when consumers just quickly want to dial up to that thing they love," he explained. This perspective is a key teaching for brands and marketers. In a fully distributed personal media landscape (and with UK research firm Forrester predicting the death of interruptive advertising), they need to create strong core narratives that can stretch across platforms in fragments.
For more on distributed messaging and how to tackle in-between moments of engagement, see Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory (part of our Invisible Marketing Industry Trend) and SXSW 2017: Reimagining Advertising.
According to a new report from UK research firm Forrester, "society doesn't need advertising like it used to". The report predicts that $2.9bn will be taken from display advertising next year as marketers invest in new models of engagement – from artificial intelligence, to content marketing, to intelligent assistants such as Amazon's Alexa.
Forrester backs up this pronouncement with some sobering stats: 38% of US adults have ad-blocking software installed, while 47% avoid mobile in-app ads. At this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, we heard some even more significant metrics from Josh Topolsky, editor of recently launched online news platform The Outline. He stated 56% of all online ads are either not visible on screen, or not visible long enough for humans to actually register them.
The Outline's fresh approach to online advertising – bespoke ad content personalised for the platform's small, but highly engaged audience – is paying off. In an Outline blog last month, Topolsky wrote: "Not only is our interaction rate 13x industry average, our click through is 25x what a normal ad does."
Clearly, then, there is still worth in reimagining online ad formats, as Topolsky has done. But consumers are increasingly shifting behaviours to platforms and environments where interruptive ads are redundant. As the Forrester report suggests: "Once they can get what they want without leaving themselves open to interruptions – whether through voice interfaces or AI-driven background services – they will feel even more hostile to ad interruptions than they claim to today."
British airline Virgin Atlantic has released a podcast called The Venture. The show continues the brand narrative of doing things differently by exploring the success stories of pioneering brands. Guests include Jonathan Murray (co-creator of MTV's The Real World) and members of the founding team of US satirical news network The Onion. The Venture was created by American podcasting network Gimlet Media's native advertising arm, Gimlet Creative.
Twenty-four per cent of Americans (about 57 million people) now listen to a podcast at least once a month. More than half of those listen to three or more podcasts per week, and over 20% follow upwards of six shows (Edison Research, 2017). To connect with these deep listeners, brands are moving from interstitial audio ads into their own branded podcasts.
In 2015 – alongside the release of true-crime blockbuster podcast Serial – General Electric amassed five million downloads for its storytelling podcast The Message. Now, podcast creators are drawing in audiences with explainer formats that digest complex themes. From shows examining culture like American musician Hrishikesh Hirway's Song Exploder and The New York Times' Still Processing to Crooked Media analysing current events and global policy, listeners are flocking to competent voices that help them make sense of the world. Brands can play a part in this by exploring issues close to their core business and values, as demonstrated by DTR – a podcast on relationships in the digital age that Gimlet created for dating app Tinder.
For more on growth factors and brand communications in podcasting, check out our March 2017 Pop Culture Round-Up.