“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’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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“shallow end my ass!”

The other day I read that over 3 million people follow Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. For some reason (I suppose I was trying to be ironic) I, in turn, twittered: “Over 3 million people follow Ashton Kutchner on Twitter. What does that say about us?”

In addition to spelling the actor/celebrity’s last name wrong (there is no “n”), I also feel stupid for having twittered that missive.

All arguments from me regarding Twitter should begin and end with this sentiment: Who gives a shit what I think? I have 300 followers (Thank you!). Ashton has 3,000,000 and counting. By those numbers it’s easy to tell whom people give a shit about and whom they do not.

And so my general apology to Ashton. But I also owe him a more personal amend. While perusing my Sunday edition of Parade Magazine, I came across a feature about Mr. Kutcher: “I’m still looking for Trouble,” by Jeanne Wolf. On a lark, I read the piece and, lo and behold, gained a fair amount of respect for Mr. Kutcher; and not for his known accomplishments (That 70’s Show, Punk’d, being Demi’s husband) but for the things he had to say in the article. That’s right. I was intrigued by Ashton Kutcher’s point of view.

On relationships: “The real trick is putting yourself around people you admire…I locked in on the brightest light in the room… That’s why I married my wife. We have an agreement in our marriage…to shine our lights on each other.” Laugh if you want, but I actually think these are poetic and pragmatic terms for a marriage. Despite much ridicule, he and Demi are still together, and it’s going on 7 years.

On life: “There’s no sense in making life seem like it’s a struggle (when it clearly isn’t), because that doesn’t make anybody feel better.”

On ambition: “If you stop working at a career it goes away…If you don’t work toward it, you’re not really appreciating what you’ve got.”

Not only do I agree with him I’m pleasantly surprised by how he mitigates his ego with gratitude. In my own small way, I try and do that in my life. I admire that he, of all people, aspires to do so as well.

Ashton goes on to discuss how aware he is that everyone other than those 3 million followers thinks he’s a moron. Hell, I did! What’s cool is his attitude about the deal –it’s neither precious nor defensive: “I deserve to be made fun of,” he says. “As soon as you make fun of something, it instantly removes the fear.”

Look…I don’t care for any of this guy’s work –never have-but I do owe him an amends. Beyond rich, famous and handsome, Kutcher seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Not that he gives a shit what I think but Dude, where’s my manners!

Not Ashton\'s Twitter!

Or you can bitch online…

You’re all aware of the Canadian musician, Dave Carroll who wrote a song about United Airlines trashing his guitar, made a video, and posted it on You Tube.

United Hurt My Guitar

The song is mediocre but, like they say, it’s the thought that counts. Big thought. Last I checked well over 2 million people have watched the video! I experienced part of it on the 6 o’clock news. Even United Airlines is a fan, claiming to want the thing for future training reasons. Yeah, right. My guess is they’re feigning humility to mitigate scorn. (What I’d do.)

Either way, both parties have settled. Presumably United will be more careful with how they handle luggage. Presumably. And our Canadian friend got himself those precious moments of fame Andy Warhol made famous. I bet his band gets a lot more bookings and, if nothing else, the musician now has something for the scrapbook.

Now let’s talk about the kafuffle involving the self-named “UPS Whiteboard Actor” and Delta Airlines. After experiencing a brutal 24 hours trying to get his family from Richmond to Atlanta, the actor/creative director, Andy Azula wrote an angry post on his blog, detailing the nightmare, and vowing never to fly Delta again unless he receives some form of recompense, be it material or an apology or both. The missive was picked up by other trade blogs including Agency Spy:


Dozens of comments quickly followed, most calling the guy a whiner and a poser and a bunch of other things. Many ridiculed Andy’s odd long hair, a trademark of sorts. To be fair, the comments on his own blog were mostly in support of the “article.” Read for yourself.

UPS Guy vs. Delta Airlines

Both events have two things in common: bad airline service and using social media to seek retribution. But while the musician is getting lots of love the UPS guy is taking a fair amount of abuse. There are probably many reasons for this discrepancy but the main one is obvious. The unknown musician made a charming video about his ordeal while the somewhat known Azula just bitched.

As a creative director and blogger, I empathize with Andy. I, too, have wanted retribution for one thing or another. I like having a forum, albeit minuscule. However, having learned the hard way, I also recognize the potential for self-made sparks to ignite online. Certain topics and/or the way we communicate them… We think we are being insightful but we are perceived as inciting. We think we are being provocative but we are only provoking. Andy must have crossed a line.

I’m as sensitive to barrages of criticism as the next guy. I don’t like it. Yet my best advice for Azula is to take it on the chin. He got the letter out of his system. Now it lives on drawing ire. Let it go, my longhaired buddy. Fighting Internet snipers is even harder than taking on an airline!

At the time of this writing, the Zappos RFP fiasco was breaking. Here, the creative director at small shop, Ignited took out his frustration online with regard to being unfairly dismissed by Zappos unwieldy pitch process. Once again, the trade blogs reported it and the trolls feasted. Much debate about these issues could and should be had. Lord knows pitching new business has become ridiculous, with lots of blame to go around. But are social networks the place to have it?

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Classic United Airlines commercial

When I first arrived to Leo Burnett, United Airlines was one of the agency’s most prominent accounts. And rightly so. The work “we” did for United was world class. In my book “Fly the friendly skies of United” remains one of the best ad lines of all time. The glossy commercials were Leo Burnett at its finest: big, wise, singular, damn near perfect in every way.

As good (and not good) as United’s work has been since, it’s never risen to the same level. Not even close. Want proof? What is United’s big idea today? You don’t know, do you? Neither do I. When you’re done reading, take a look at this classic spot and tell me (in the age of email and social networks) if the message isn’t even more relevant now than it was 20 years ago. Amazing, right?

Adpulp just did a piece about “ambient intimacy” defining it as the ability to remain “closer than ever” to people because of social networks and the like.

Adpulp: Ambient intimacy?

Hmm, I wonder. Can Twittering be defined as intimate? Is Facebook really about “friends?”

I doubt it.

I think ambient intimacy is like cosmetic surgery. It looks great but it’s just not the same. And frankly, it might even be egregious. Who knows what all this faux intimacy is doing to our culture?

The above United commercial, which I’m calling “Face Time,” reveals a deeper truth. Even then people were relying on “faxes and phone calls” instead of honest, face to face communication. In United’s narrative a company almost pays dearly for its laziness or “ambient intimacy.”

I could write a lot more about this and probably will. But do me a favor. Watch the spot and read the piece on Adpulp. Then tell me, is ambient intimacy better than a handshake or infinitely more perverse?