By Randi Altman
There are so many ways to reach consumers these days and brands are taking advantage of them all, from digital billboards and social media to in-store kiosks to Websites to viral videos, mobile phones and apps.
This part of the business is growing, with no sign of slowing down, and creatives and post professionals are finding even more ways to engage consumers.
Director of Integrated Production
180LA is an international advertising agency. Derek Richmond manages all media areas: print, broadcast, television, video content and interactive digital. Prior to 180LA, he worked at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as director of digital production. A recent project was Sony’s “Everything Looks Better in 3D” homepage takeover.
STRENGTHS: “The digital world now provides more engagement with the consumer. It allows brands to connect with consumers where they spend most of their time — on their favorite Websites and in social media. We can now place the digital, place the advertising, place the interaction, place the experience where consumers normally are.
“With mobile devices becoming more powerful in terms of graphics and processing speeds, digital can now fully extend what was once only possible online into the mobile market. What you can do in terms of creative design and interaction is improving tremendously over what could be developed on smart phones just a few years ago.
“With digital and Internet-enabled televisions, brands have a deeper engagement with consumers in their homes as well. We can do more than static billboards now. We can meet consumers on the streets, with interactive storefronts, kiosks, installations, and you can use your mobile phone to interact. For example, a brand or a business can text something to your phone as you leave a store. It engages you everywhere you are and allows that two-way communication rather than just viewing or reading something in a magazine. Print is changing as well. We are now seeing Quick Reader (QR) codes that allow you to get deeper into the content seen in print, and the brand is able to communicate with you past that particular engagement.
“We can also use analytics to see what people are doing, when they are doing it, how they are doing it, so we can improve the creative in subsequent campaigns. We can fine tune the way we are engaging with people and find more effective ways to put content out there.”
WEAKNESSES: “Sometimes digital communications can be less thought through than what goes into a TV spot or creating a traditional media print ad. Often, people think because it is digital it can be produced more quickly. The problem is the world then gets inundated with marginal creative executions. Digital could be better served by adopting some sensibilities from traditional media. That is why a TV spot goes through all those motions, because it needs to be perfect.”
OPPORTUNITIES: “Brands, companies and agencies can build their own intellectual property, their own proprietary software applications; everyone can become a software creator. Ideas don’t have to live as a one-off anymore, they can live as an application, which can be used, optimized and perfected over time. This gives everyone a chance to be a software developer, and the best ones will rise to the top with breakthrough applications and become part of the lexicon — like ‘Googling’ something, or “Liking” on Facebook. People say that Google can do all these things, well so can you, because everything that Google does is built on an open platform that anyone can build upon.”
THREATS: “Putting software development/application development in the hands of everyone in the world is cool, but it also waters down the application category with too many options. The more that gets thrown out there, the less interested people become. There is certainly a ‘cool factor’ to digital applications, but only the really ‘killer apps’ with the most utility are the ones that last the test of time.”
OUTLOOK FOR 2012: “Experiential microsites are becoming less popular. Brands are using social media platforms and blog Websites to communicate with the end user. Interaction is changing and becoming quicker and less deep, but with that is the ability to have interaction experiences transfer easily to mobile. Mobile is on its way up and, in my opinion, it hasn’t peaked yet.”
IQ Foundry is an interactive agency that works to combine the latest technologies with brand-oriented marketing. Recentprojets include an iPad learning game called Learn Shapes! and a 3D virtual home tour for American Family Interactive.
STRENGTHS: “Interactive gives us the opportunity to deliver engaging experiences to the audiences that we are trying to reach. We have an advantage over traditional media because we can give customers the ability to interact with a brand and to guide their experience around their own needs and interests. What matters most is creating great content that is relevant to our audience. Interactive is what really allows us to take that content and create an experience that provides something unique and new for a customer to see and touch.
“When you do it right, the connection that you can make between your audience and a brand with interactive media is incredibly strong. The greatest strength of interactive is the ability it gives us to make those connections possible.”
WEAKNESSES: “The biggest challenge for most organizations is delivering a message that their audience really wants to hear. Most campaigns would be better served by looking at how customers see their products and services integrating with their daily lives and what problems they might solve. When asking your audience to take their time and involve themselves in what you have to say, you have an obligation to be pithy, relevant and real.”
OPPORTUNITIES: “The mobile market space is opening up a new world of opportunities to get brands in front of consumers. Application development for mobile platforms is where we are seeing our business grow the most right now, and where a lot of our clients believe they can make new connections. We are helping them by identifying how they can create interesting and engaging experiences for their customers on the mobile platform. Using mobile apps to help your customers solve a problem, learn about your product or service offerings, or simply to maintain a relationship with your brand, is an opportunity that every business should be thinking about right now.”
THREATS: “The biggest threat for brands is to see the interactive space as intimidating and do nothing, especially on mobile. There are so many ways to develop a credible and meaningful experience on this new platform, but so few agencies and companies have really perfected the art yet. Start brainstorming ideas within your organization and figure out why customers would choose to engage in your message with their mobile devices. Not doing so is the biggest mistake that you could make this year.”
OUTLOOK FOR 2012: “I really see mobile applications becoming a key part of the package for major brands’ advertising budgets through this next year. My role here at IQ Foundry is growing more and more around helping our customers develop strategies and ideas for mobile experiences that will help strengthen their brands. I think that 2012 is going to be the year that mobile really hits its stride.
“The other platform I see making a resurgence is video. It is great to see people tossing out their PowerPoint keynotes and dry sales presentations and helping them replace them with well thought out demo videos and video presentations. Look at your current communications and marketing materials and update anything you feel is painful to sit through by revisiting the message and creating a high-impact video. My same key principles to this still apply — content is king and you need to make sure you understand the real needs of your audience. Toss the 45-minute PowerPoint, replace it with a five-minute video that excites the customer enough to ask questions about your offerings — and you’ve already won the business.”
Chief Business Officer/Partner
Mindsmack TV is a post facility with four edit suites and two audio rooms. Their Mindsmack.com is ‘new media’ company providing Web development, social media events and iphone apps.
STRENGTHS: “We are able to deliver to a client a much more robust package in order to truly reach their audience. Doing a promo for a film or a TV show is great, and you are going to get the audience that is tuned into that channel, but when you open up the social media doors to your audience you are giving them an opportunity to interact and give feedback on what they are going to be watching. They become part of the conversation rather than an idle viewer.
“The strength is communication. We are hearing back as the show is airing; we are not waiting for Nielson-type ratings to come back to us before altering our trajectory to address viewer feedback. The information that is being gleaned is instantaneous and it’s a gut reaction — and it’s not filtered. It’s coming straight from the source.”
WEAKNESSES: “Because the message needs to be distributed over many different arenas, it can be a challenge to get a unified message across without increasing budgets. If we are creating a promo for a show and are only peripherally involved in the social media campaign or the Web distribution strategy, then creating a unified campaign is often overlooked. We rely on the program producers, who are often already bogged down with on-air deadlines to stitch it all together. In short, creating a unified media experience for the viewer/user is a full-time job, and bringing in an organization that understands that will pay for itself in spades.
“It’s getting better by the day, but the message across all the various media outlets is often less consistent than desired.”
OPPORTUNITIES: “We are bringing social to everyone in a way that people are only just starting to understand. Sharing your thoughts and your feelings through all these different tools is letting users get to know one another without ever meeting face to face. It levels the playing field. The whole world is now your audience.
“What we are putting out there isn’t just reaching the targeted demographic any more. The entire world is now watching. The US Internet audience is at about 250 million and we are now reaching just over 2 billion people who have access worldwide. With 10 times more ‘reach’ than just a few years ago, the Internet opportunities are endless. Broadcasters are well aware of the value they get from Internet campaigns. The percentages of ‘media spend’ for Web campaigns is now about the same as ‘spend’ on TV campaigns. The shift is just beginning.”
THREATS: “Clients are going to keep on asking for this type of work, and they want more bang for the buck. They want that media campaign and that custom Facebook page, but the budgets haven’t changed that much. At one time you had 20 bucks to get the promo done, including graphics and sound design, now you have 25 and they want the promo, the graphics, the audio and a social media campaign strategy.
OUTLOOK FOR 2012: “We are growing because we have embraced the Web and many multimedia aspects of the industry. We have a lot of new projects coming up looking for this kind of ‘one-stop shopping’ and an easier way to give a campaign a single unified voice. The Internet ship is smoothly sailing the high seas. It’s power and ‘reach’ is just being realized, and we are glad to have booked passage when we did.”
Venice, CA & Denver
Futuristic Films creates motion pictures for brands, advertising and entertainment. A recent project for international retailer Forever21 includes an augmented reality billboard, a six-spot campaign and a holographic fashion show. They also created an interactive music video for the recent opening of the 77kids New York City flagship store.
STRENGTHS: “The biggest strength in the area of interactive and emerging media within the advertising industry is that brand and advertising agencies are finally recognizing that for most consumers today, it is not enough to provide them with a message in a traditional format. It is imperative to create an engaging, on-going relationship with consumers to create a message that is interactive. Fueling this is the advances in technology, enabling the execution of these kinds of projects, which is improving by the day.
“I believe 2011 was the year that we saw a major breakthrough in interactive and emerging media projects, across a wide spectrum of brands and marketers. Up until now, there was a great deal of talk about these projects. But this year, we actually saw them emerge, and from brands and marketers who had historically been more traditional. We were used to seeing technology and videogame companies be very aggressive and progressive with their advertising, but this year we saw the implementation of interactive, augmented reality and emerging media applications across the board.”
WEAKNESSES: “Fundamentally, and contrary to the strengths we are seeing in the marketplace, there is still a challenge where budgets are concerned. There is still a disproportionate amount of budget allocated to these projects, and I believe it is an issue of education. Branders and marketers don’t truly understand the cost and complexity of these projects, which is necessary for them to be effective. We often educate our clients about the need for these projects not to just be ‘one-off’ endeavors. By the very nature of interactivity it is important there is a holistic approach to campaigns so consumers are engaged in a participatory experience, which has lasting impact.”
OPPORTUNITIES: “We see a great deal of opportunities awaiting us in 2012. There continues to be an expansion of these projects into what were traditional or mainstream brands and advertisers. There are more opportunities because there are more agencies and clients willing to take a chance on this area. We are also seeing an explosion in terms of technology, with advances in geo-location and augmented reality technologies, as well as the evolution of the QR Code with new offerings such as SnapTag, etc. As consumers continue to adopt consumption technology, such as smart phones and tablets, the opportunities for this type of work is endless.”
THREATS: “The biggest threat I see to this burgeoning area of the advertising and marketing industry is the global economy. We continue to see a slow recovery to the economy both here in the US and abroad. Many of these projects continue to be listed under discretionary budgets. So when budgets are tight, there is not additional funds available for what may be considered an experiment. But for those branders and marketers who are forward-thinking, they will realize in this coming year that projects that incorporate interactivity are the future.”
OUTLOOK FOR 2012: “My outlook for 2012 is extremely positive for this segment of the industry. For next year, I see integration as the key trend — integration of several interactive video and social media techs together to create campaigns that are participatory and multi-layered. As consumers continue to adopt consumption technology such as smart phones and tablets, the opportunities for this type of work is endless. However, all three of these factors need to be working in tandem: a willingness to expand the reach of advertising, the tools for consumers to engage, and the distribution vehicles to get the messaging out to consumers.”