“Stop Tweeting and pass the gaucamole!”

I was struck by a recent Tweet from mutual friend and follower, Tim Leake: The twitter chatter during the Oscars was almost enough to make me watch in real time. Could social media be a DVR-killer?

I Tweeted back: Could be a big deal, actually.

His reply: Certainly makes real-time chatter-worthy programming more valuable to advertisers. Perhaps it needs to be cultivated more.

Up until Tim’s Tweet, I hadn’t tied these thoughts together, even though I was one of the multitude of Oscar watchers Tweeting about it in real time. Forget that this year’s telecast was painfully dull (so much for youthful hosts making it “hip and relevant.”), the Academy Awards (like the Superbowl), attracted a huge audience. A huge live audience. In other words, people didn’t Tivo the show and watch it later. The vast majority consumed it in real time. It was more than just entertainment. This was an event. Eventainment.

Given the Oscars and Superbowl involve winners and losers, God forbid anyone miss the live feed and have to get the results from some benign website or doofus at work. No surprise both events are on Sunday, furthering their popular appeal, giving everyone something to talk about at the water cooler on Monday.

Put an asterisk on that last comment. Because, regarding the Oscar’s, I’d argue the water cooler chatter began on the Red Carpet, with fans Tweeting about this star’s dress and that one’s hair. When the telecast actually started fans were already entrenched in conversations with their “followers” and “friends.”

Log on your show’s on!

Everyone in Adland needs to vociferously thank Facebook, Twitter and other applications for making real time TV relevant again. Since the advent of Tivo, advertisers have understandably grown wary regarding the numbers of viewers watching their shows. But with legions of fans following and commenting in real time, they no longer fast-forward through the commercials! They can’t. Ironic this turnabout, given social media and the Internet are supposedly television’s great assassins.

Granted, event television is special but imagine if ordinary programming captured real time audiences the same way, by exploiting social media. If fans wanted to join the conversation regarding their favorite shows they would have to tune in to the live feed, just like in the olden days!

I’m guessing numerous shows are starting to figure this out, especially reality programs, which are largely driven by their oversize personalities. Still, if I’m a network exec trying to create more audience (and value) for my show, I’m thinking social media campaign. If one knows that “followers” of a given show are actually watching the show when they’re supposed to that gives power back to the networks (and myriad ways to advertise, promote and sell), while at the same time feeding people’s desire to stay current. A win-win. And an unexpected one at that.

Tim Leake is a Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi NY. He often speaks at the Hyper Island Master Class in Digital training. His Twitter handle is @tim_leake


I want to be like you! Me too!

I remember when companies (ad agencies among them) used to frown on their employees using work hours to “play” on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Cursory emails were sent out regularly reminding staff of their obligations to the company. HR constantly admonished workers about rules and regulations, both inside the company and out. Disciplinary actions were often implied. If employees saw fit to dawdle on line they risked being let go. Given the very recent history of social media this is not ancient history. We’re talking one or two years ago. In many cases one or two months.

But the times they are a changing. Now corporations (especially ad agencies) are scrambling for competency in the very same social media platforms they used to shun. Classes are being offered. Intensive and expensive classes like Hyper Island, which I recently attended. As headlines about Facebook and Twitter dominate the media, senior managers everywhere are scrambling to get with the program as opposed to get rid of it. We are putting “digital at the core.” We are “getting social.” The great, wonderful irony is that the twenty-somethings who grew up with this stuff are now the ones being looked to for driving company growth. The hipster CEO has replaced the once prevalent stereotype of the geeky IT guy. Remember those hilarious SNL skits? Not so funny anymore.

Or is it? The ongoing frenetic transformation reminds me of that Doctor Seuss story where the Sneetches keep placing stars on their bellies and then removing them, based on the fear of being deemed out of place, out of touch and just plain uncool. In real life the moral is not so ambiguous: the star-bellied Sneetches are cool. The rest of us can only line up to “follow” them and be their “friends.”

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The semi-great American novel!

I’m a social animal, are you?

My stint at Hyper Island’s Master Class is officially over. I return home fired up about sharing the experience with my agency and its clients. Social media isn’t news –not by any measure- but moving it up the food chain in most advertising agencies certainly is.

Rather than go into that per se, I’d like to share with you a case study that illustrates beautifully how social media can deliver a product or service unlike anything ever before it and, one should add, for a lot less money than most mass media advertising campaigns.

The client is the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium, the protagonist in the campaign the unborn baby of one of its Asian elephants. I beseech you to watch the video. riveting story in its own right, the use of social media makes it truly exemplary. Yet, it’s not technology that will garner the Antwerp Zoo and its agency, Boondoggle a Gold Lion at Cannes (perhaps even the Grand Prix), it’s the humanity…or should I say zoology.

For the 8-month gestation period of this Asian elephant the people of Belgium were riveted to their computer screens and, ultimately, the zoo. That’s eight months of elephant-sized marketing to a captivated nation, and all of it in real time. No other media could have accomplished this, not for all the Euros in Europe.

We saw and discussed many such cases at Hyper Island but, for obvious reasons, this was the favorite. What every case had in common, however, was a canny use of social media at its core. Done right social media merges beauty and utility in a way mass marketing cannot. With social, people are getting something for their time. And they’re getting it in real time. In this case, they became vested in the story and the zoo. It was as if all these people were “following” a pregnant loved one’s journey, which, in a sense they were.

The results speak for themselves. Over 5% of the entire Belgium population followed the story for nearly a year. And what’s more they still do. Kai-Mook was born on May 17th for all to see. Needless to say, attendance at the zoo went up dramatically. Needful to say, both mother and baby are doing fine.

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Digital or generalist? Hopefully both.

The debate at today’s Hyper Island Master Class (digital training for creative professionals) was one of craft versus utility in the modern creative department. The creative generalist vs. the digital specialist. Call them by other names, but you know what I’m talking about. Most agencies agree bringing these two groups together is critical. Doing it, however, challenges many of them.

I’m generalizing but bear with me. There is a latent tendency for generalists (art directors and copywriters) to obsess about craft (typography, body copy, design, etc) far more than the various species of digital creative. Conversely, the latter group tends to be more about the usefulness of the creative. Utility trumps aesthetic. Does your creation help the end user? If not, who cares what it looks like? Online, you’re just creating “digital ghost towns,” said digital creative consultant (and one of our instructors), Daniele Fiandaca.

Of course both are very important. Duh. Yet, there is much to be gleaned by extrapolating key pieces from this discussion (if debate is too strong a word). Pick any side. Both parties have much to say. Either way, it should be apparent that getting both sides aligned is in the best interests of agency, client and consumer.

Let’s stick with the agency, shall we? I work for the day when of all my colleagues are hybrids, with digital folks thinking high concept and their creative counterparts respecting utility.

The metaphor I like for this hybrid creative department is “guppies fucking.” Aquarists know that within a short period of time you can’t tell which guppy came from which parent. They are a strain of all. Likewise, we in adland will no longer be able to tell who came from a general background or the digital side. And we won’t need or want to.

“Useful,” stated Saatchi creative director and class presenter, Tim Leake “will be the new cool.”

The new, most desirable creative people will be keen on delivering concepts that are both useful to users and beautiful to behold. They will be adept at all of it and evaluated accordingly. As will planners, producers and account executives but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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