2008-08-04

The Golden Ticket

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From the stop-motion savants, PES, comes the latest video sensation "Western Spaghetti."



Inspiring, creative and just plain fun to watch, it makes me think that looking low budget has never been more profitable.

And big corporations are beginning to take notice. It's amazing that little projects like this done on your own dime can eventually land you accounts with Sprint, Sony and Nike. In an article in the Seattle Times Jeremiah Owyang (Forrester Research) predicted 2008 to be “the first time, you will start to see budgets set aside for social-media strategies and processes." And his projection is ringing true.

Even underground phenomenon Ask A Ninja is now sponsored by Verizon.

The market for online video ads is growing crazy big. According to Jupiter Research, it will generate $768M this year in the US alone, and by 2012 will reach over $8B worldwide (eMarketer).

Ford Motor Company has recently realized the upswing of online media in a big way by putting together a 6-person Social Media Marketing Team to head up its own endeavors. Dell even has a position called "Chief Blogger."

Last night over a couple mojitoes and a basket of plantain chips, I equated this time in history to the golden age of advertising and the large Madison Ave firms. Anyone who has seen Mad Men knows what I'm talking about.

Huge budgets. Expense accounts. Scotch. Cigarettes. Sexism.

Ok, it’s good that last one went away, but the rest are fine by me. Huge companies sought after these guys because they had the Golden Ticket. A direct pass to the heart of the population at large through the latest technology, at the time being radio and TV. They were creating something the world had never seen before, and knew how to leverage it for the clients’ benefit. They created a form of art (yes, art) that used witty repartee, double entendres and dramatic imagery to get people to feel emotionally connected to a brand to believe in its’ superior quality. And they had the right connections to get that message out.

Things are definitely different now with the agencies trying to break through the clutter every way they can, but the core of it is the same. Instead of white married couples pushing plastic, our tools are monkeys playing drums and other seemingly random videos to get people to feel socially connected to a brand. With thousands of companies out there pushing in many cases the exact same product, the difference is now people want to have something to blog about, forward to their friends, or post on their Facebook wall so that they can be the ones in on the latest trend. And it moves at a lightening fast pace.

The medium began with Joe Consumer posting a home made video of his buddy dancing on stage for fun… then almost 100 MILLION people tuned in to watch it. And they CHOSE to tune in. This lean-forward, opt-in eagerness for consumers to actively pay attention for 6 straight minutes is something that brands have been trying to tap in to since the dawning of advertising. And now they have it – but only if done right. Otherwise the backlash could be huge (prediction: Chris Brown + Wrigley).

In a recent Adweek article, Brian Morrissey says there’s “a new breed at Fortune 500 companies. Social-media experts are in high demand as companies attempt to figure out how to adapt how they talk to customers and even among themselves.” And states that “Once thought of as an interesting new media channel, social media is increasingly seen as a catalyst for changing how companies operate.”

Just as TV was in the early days, the internet has a mystique, a huge doorway into the heart of the consumer, and large companies aren’t quite sure how to tap into yet. So they go to the experts who hold the Golden Ticket.

And those companies not leveraging social media now will quickly see their competitors gaining what has become the biggest results indicator for their marketing efforts – web traffic.

We have seen the ups and downs of companies basing their existence on web trends. But now that the dust has settled, we may just find ourselves in 30 years watching a show about the golden age of internet marketers, with their t-shirts, baseball hats, beer and tattoos.

Here’s to hoping so. Cheers.

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