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Though stinging, I love this gag Tweet from Adweak. Many a Superbowl I spent gripping my phone (or radiating my balls via laptop) racing the commercial feed on TV, and countless other assorted creative types, to try and get in a witty and insightful Tweet. Then another. And another. Of course I also needed to embellish my comments with a unique and brilliant hash tag, this in addition to the tag we’d been assigned. Thank God for the reemergence of 60 second TVC’s. Those extra seconds were gold.

Speed dating for “likes” and “retweets.” Such was the privilege of being selected by one trade pub or another to “live Tweet” the commercials playing during the Superbowl. During Twitter’s heyday it was vogue behavior. What it really accomplished was nil but being chosen fed my ego as a genius creative, enabling my on the money insight and rapier wit. And I was hardly alone. Big names from our industry were sucked in as well. For three hours and change we were the in-crowd. The creative community speaks! Follow us and learn. We know how to vivisect a TVC. In real time no less. (Unless, of course one pre-wrote his tweets having screened the commercials weeks in advance.)

Oh, the grandiosity of it all. To think that legions of my peers, clients and well-wishers were hanging on my every Tweet. Such folly. (Though I won’t deny being retweeted by Adweek made me giddy.

Still, by the third quarter I was numb. Spilling nacho cheese on my computer and dirty looks from my wife did not make the experience better. “Who’s the idiot on the laptop?” “Oh, that’s my husband. He’s doing it for work.”

But, hey I was changing the world. My opinions were becoming part of a national conversation, one that the 90 million people actually watching the game were excluded from. The next morning I would have hundreds of new followers. My Klout score (remember that?) would be through the roof.

Didn’t happen.

I’m not saying real time social commentary doesn’t work. Millions upon millions do it. The peanut gallery is vast. Lovers and haters and trolls spit fire and throw shade. The Superbowl and other massive “live” events draw legions of flies. But choreographing a VIP community is futile in this mob, forcing a reality where every member is sending and no one is receiving. Moreover, a bunch of creative directors spit balling Super Bowl commercials on Twitter reeks like an old idea. #whogivesashit

This Sunday my fingers are on the chicken wings, not my phone. That is, unless AdAge hits me up. My Tweets are pure gold!

Falling on deaf ears?

Like Hollywood and all its stars, the vast majority of Adland despised the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. Which is why for many months so many of us rallied for a different outcome. The best and brightest from our tribe, hired by the DNC, or of their own volition, created films and microsites and social programs in a righteous effort to see the one time First Lady become the first lady President of theses United States and, with perhaps even more ardor, to make certain one very strange and polarizing man didn’t. Emulating the luminaries in La La Land we had our Goodby and Droga and all their get doing everything imaginable so that America voted one way and not another.

Funny or Die presented an entire movie mocking Donald Trump. Baldwin killed with his impersonation of DT on SNL. Poignant commercials told us “our children are watching” as clips of The Donald ran before their innocent eyes. The Tonite Show. The Daily Show. All the shows – ranted and raved. We made memes and anthems. Jay Z and Beyonce’ stood by Mrs. Clinton swearing a blue streak for blue states. The sitting POTUS boldly stated that Donald Trump was “not fit for the office” and we made endless propaganda to support that claim. Oh, those ripping hashtags. So many followers. So many Likes. So many shares.

And yet.

All the Kings horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Hillary Clinton back together again. Donald Trump won. And he did it with a clown car for support and a fraction of the money.

In Washington the autopsies are well under way. Blaming the FBI. Blaming racist America. Blaming men. And, with eyes to the floor, blaming their candidate as well as themselves. How could we let this happen? They rightfully ask. Were we so wrong? That wildfire will rage for months to come.

And so I must ask the same questions of our industry. Was our strategy and creative so wrong? How did we bungle a pitch we thought so certain we’d won?

I did not create any content for this election but I am available to do so for you: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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Heel to Hero…

Going from Heel to Hero and visa-versa has not only become predictable but is occurring at dizzying speeds. I think this phenomenon is grossly underappreciated. Not only is it changing how we view good news and bad news but it is shaping current events and enabling shocking new discourse in popular culture and marketing.

A perfect example is Colin Kaepernick. When he was first caught sitting in protest during the National Anthem at a pre-season football game, the world all but tore him a new asshole. Within two weeks he’s on the cover of Time magazine and high school athletes around the country are emulating his behavior. Last week his jersey outsold all others. Pretty remarkable given he’s not even the starting quarterback for the team. Colin Kaepernick went from a goat to a God. Just like that.

The confluence of social media, proliferate video, celebrity obsession, reality TV and other factors have created a perfect storm, enabling controversial behavior and in turn changing our perceptions of what constitutes good and bad, right and wrong, and it’s doing so in real time!

Look at what a sordid sex tape of Kim Kardashian started. Once vilified and humiliated, that negative take has long been forgotten. She and her get are some of the most famous people on Earth.

The camera loves errant behavior. And society loves cameras. Ergo anyone can be a “star.” Provided you punch through. Dropping your pants or taking a stance are two surefire ways of getting that attention.

Courting controversy is not the real news, however. Like many, I have been writing about this for years.

What’s especially fascinating is how predictable the pattern has become. And the subsequent opportunities this affords. Marketers can take more and bigger chances. So what if a campaign or Tweet creates a shit storm. Within hours, defenders will join the fray. Even turn the tide. One can game public opinion. Betting on the inevitable backlash should be considered strategy from the get-go. Whether we like it or not, this is happening. Certain groups will take advantage while others stand by gaping.

(Author’s note: I’m avail for copy, content creation & creative leadership: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com)

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Where’s Mr. & Mrs. Waldo?

While reading the “newspaper” online I came across a couple stories that captured my attention. I clicked on them both not because they were newsworthy (they weren’t) but because they appealed to my socially & digitally trained brain. The same brain that grew up reading long form magazine pieces in The New Yorker and Field & Stream; not to mention spending hours slowly devouring the Sunday paper, digesting sections like a python moving rodents down its throat.

That was then.

These stories are classic examples of the sort of content we feed on now. Both are fairly meaningless by old-school journalism definitions. Nobody died or got hurt. Nothing really is at stake.

The story about vandals knocking over a sandstone goads us into clicking its link, pushing our buttons to judge and to vilify. In this way it is like those “news” stories about drunken beachgoers tormenting a baby dolphin. We have to see these cretins and pillory them. Seeing for ourselves is made possible by amateur video or photography.

The other story functions in the same way but by pushing completely different buttons. The author beseeches us to try and find the “mystery couple” from this “Instagram-worthy…magical photograph.” The picture is of a bride and groom posing on a pretty spot in Yosemite. They are not famous. The photographer is not important. The location is unquestionably on infinite tourist-y photo albums. The chance discovery and the chance to discover are what makes this story click-bait.

Not long ago neither piece would be considered news. Now they probably get more clicks aka readers aka viewers than headlines about bombs falling in Syria.

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Lovely but is it also tacky?

The unexpected death of prince created a maelstrom of activity in the social spheres. Not surprisingly, a bunch of brands wanted to, ahem, pay their respects as well.

I definitely agree with Adfreak in that some fared better than others. Yes, to the Minnesota Viking’s (Prince’s home state) understated salute. Definitely no, to the props from Hamburger Helper. However sincere their words, the goofy Helping Hand logo makes it all insanely glib.

But the bigger question is should brands be doing this sort of thing at all? To the degree you feel advertisers can actually have “conversations” with consumers likely determines how you feel about them taking on social issues, being political, or, in this case, paying tribute to a dead person.

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An Unhelpful hand…

Part of the problem is that everything a brand says or does is, on a primary level, copy. For example, any words or pictures McDonald’s or Budweiser tweets out are, by definition, self-serving. Therefore, any attempts to “be real” must be met with skepticism.

However, as the examples in the above-linked article demonstrate, our ambivalence can at least be tempered by the use of inspired creativity or simple understatement. With few exceptions, I don’t think it’s ever eliminated. Clearly, this is infinitely harder to manage in painful circumstances (death, earthquakes, etc.) than joyful ones (winning a playoff game, birthdays, etc.) In tough times, it might be best to hold off altogether. As lovely as Jim Beam’s purple wax image is it’s still an ad. And what if, God forbid, it comes out that Prince overdosed on drugs or alcohol? That makes the connection to Jim Beam worse than awkward.

Still, if thousands upon thousands of people are willing to follow a consumer packaged goods account on Twitter or befriend a fast food restaurant on Facebook then I suppose the brands might as well give these people something other than coupons and contact information.