Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the killing of interactive and throwback viral

13 million people shared a refreshed version of subservient chicken. But what made Tipp-Ex popular even amongst those of us who have already seen it all before?

The experience happens on youtube. Here's how it works : You load a video called Hunter Shoots Bear and in that video a hunter is about to shoot a bear, but before he does, he reaches outside of the video frame, grabs the Tipp-Ex Product (a liquid paper/white out style thing) and uses it on the title of the video to create blank space where the word Shoots used to be. Then you type a verb into the blank space to create a new title. Then the magic happens and you watch what you just typed come to life -as a video!!!! (Sound familiar?)

So that is the user experience. But.....

Here's why it works : It exploits your need to control and/or participate with the web. (Exploiting is not a bad word here.) That's how the web was sold. It was grass roots. It was by the people for the people. It was FREE. It used to be called interactive long before it was digital. Remember? It was new media. It was better than any other media because it was lean forward and not lean back. Finally! The medium that put the power back in your hands.

If you spent countless hours in front of a TV you were fat and lazy - a couch potato. But countless hours in front of a computer was ACTIVITY. Learning, surfing, sharing, blogging....all ACTIVE verbs. Doing more than watching. There is a certain status to being wired and wireless. There is no status to watching American Idol and Jersey Shore. If you admit to watching TV you need excuse your behaviour in some way...or counteract it by pulling the geek card : "I don't watch TV anymore....I download." As if that is different. Mad Men on TV and Mad Men from btjunkie is still Mad Men. Couch potatoes are not cool - web junkies are.

Experiences like Tipp-Ex (and Subservient Chicken and Old Spice) work because they give you the illusion of control over your medium and subsequently they perpetuate the underlying belief that the web is better than or different than TV.

And it is. Kind of.

But the difference no longer lies between active vs. passive. Ten years ago it did. Now, the web and TV are practically on even playing ground. TV producers are coming up with new ideas to get you involved with their programming and as of late the web has become about watching video. Just look at any award show and find the category called "online video" if you need proof. What was touted the lean forward medium is increasingly lean back.

Tipp-Ex Blank the Bear is a reminder of what the web used to be when it was born. What it was intended to be! Technically Blank the Bear is old-school. And there is nothing wrong with that. I say more power to them for refreshing throwback. It works because I expect to sit back and watch yet another video of yet another amazing circumstance of man vs nature and instead, I take a little control back by using my ACTIVE verbs. Blank the Bear is a very literal statement about what we've been slowly losing from our marketing efforts....INTERACTIVITY.

See it here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Real Social

What on the singular screen is real? Forget the existentialist angle here and just take a moment to look at your screen. With the birth of REALITY TV came the death of authenticity. There is no real.

Most people under 20 grew up watching all 16 (YES SIXTEEN) seasons of Survivor, 12 seasons of Big Brother and the nearly 10 years of America's search for an idol. America's penchant for video-taping trailor-trash and broadcasting it on the series COPS (1989) may have started it all but it has graduated. We used to see those social deviants get arrested. Now we see them get sponsorship deals and book deals and spin-offs and sequels. REAL deviant behaviour is rewarded.

After years of camera-in-your-face broadcasts and the ever-shrinking technologies we carry in our pockets we have created the "camera in perpetua".

Hey Andy Warhol, nice prediction but a more specific way to have put it is "In the future everyone will be famous because fame will become easy."

I have yet to find any real data regarding the impact RTV has on our culture but I can theorize.

It's killed fame on one hand but so what there's too much of that anyway. So let's say the good thing that came of RTV is "anyone can be famous so that makes the Tom Cruises of the world less famous". Kinda.

But a stranger impact of RTV is that it dulls our senses and regardless of how horrifying the content may be, we feel nothing. On one hand, we know what we see is untrue but, on the other, we are highly aware that we want to believe it's real and that we are allowing our suspension of disbelief to occur. Those are conflicting forces on the psyche and, as a culture, that has to have an impact on us.

What happens on Jersey Shore is not real. They are in front of a camera and the "characters" play up their own good and bad sides in order to gain popularity and ensure their place in the next season. Right? It's edited and somewhat prescriptive and, in that sense, unreal. Yes? But a highly charged argument at 6 AM after a night of heavy drinking cannot be saved by the omnipresence of the camera. That's real. The "scenes" between Sammi and Ronnie crossed the line and became "dangerous" on a number of occasions. These people need some serious help. Real help. They've lost control and even though we are watching it all happen, we don't accept that and it becomes just more entertainment. The ever present camera creates a dichotomy that numbs our common sense, our collective sense, our sense of reality.

These effects are compounded by the immediacy of web broadcasting. There are a plethora of insights we can gather from a film like We Live In Public but one thing is for certain. Something happens when we get lost in the world of voyeurism that we are becoming so fond of. We lose sight of the fact that what is happening on the screen is real and we lose the ability to respond.

As social marketing rears its head toward the use of more cameras to tell a story we need to ensure we maintain our integrity as advertisers otherwise, consumers will begin to doubt the validity of the message before they even engage with it and they will not respond. They might pass it to a friend and that might send your numbers through the roof and you can enter your work into an award show and brag about your trophy but it will do NOTHING to elevate the brand and you'll have to come up with something new every 8 months or so. Unless that brand is "The Situation" you don't want to be in a constant struggle trying to outdo yourself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Creative Recipe

Woudn't it be great if someone could give you the recipe for great creative? Wait a minute, would that be great or would that make the whole thing just another thing on your list of things made easier? That big easy button in that ad is a reflection of our continual spiral downward into the dark and lazy couch potato abyss that pervades our culture. Who needs it to be easy?

Bill Hicks was right. About a lot of things. But he spoke out of both sides of his mouth too. So meh. let's not talk about who is right and who is wrong. Let's talk about ideas and where they come from. There isn't a book and there isn't a mentor and there isn't a parent and there isn't a guru that can give you that answer but everyone has an opinion about good creative so why can't I?

Here's my opinion. Good creative comes from activity so rigorous you need Curious George bandages of all sizes for each finger. Good creative comes from teaching your ego how to dance. Not just regular dance, but ballroom. Maybe even paso doble. Good creative comes from being able to pick up someone else's sandwich, taking a bite and loving it as it goes down. Good creative comes from the corner of the room in the dream you can't remember. It has no form but it casts a shadow. If you cut it it bleeds. It stands on a corner twirling a string of beads and popping its gum so you can pull up along side it and ask "How much?" Good creative comes not from searching for the holy grail but falling down a flight of stairs and counting the number of posts on the way. Good creative is something you can bounce against a wall for someone else to catch. It comes from your desire to play with others.

When you really wrap your cranium around the fact that people want to play with you you will leave your cranium behind and discover the best creative thinking you will ever think.