Ever Seen A Website That Can Make You Cry?

Oh bollocks.

My last post has stirred up a bit of comment and debate. I thought it might. I tried to be as clear as I could in setting it out. So as not to create yet another us vs them debate. It feels like I failed.

I was trying to suggest that there are opportunities to DO connections and collaboration, not just TELL METAPHORICAL STORIES about them. Maybe I should simply have said that, and ended the post there.

In the comments David re-quoted the old favourite: ‘what was the last website that made you cry?’.

It’s not about websites making you cry.

If you want to be reductionist about it a website is ‘just’ a container. You can put whatever you want into it. If you want your website can be a massive high-budget emotionally-harrowing tear-inducing film in full-HD quality and surround sound. You can put words in it. You can put amazing music in it. You can put an interaction that changes your view of the world in it.

If you’ve not seen a website that makes you cry it just means people haven’t been putting the right stuff in¬†websites. It’s not the fault of websites. The pipes are totally neutral when it comes to emotion.

I’m not going to make a bit of film content that’s going to make you cry. I can’t make films. I don’t know how to do it. The people who made the ads my original posts know how to make films. That much is clear. So it’s not my fault there’s no crying-making websites on the internet (if, controversially, you think there aren’t).

I blame the people who make stuff that can make you cry for not putting it on the web where you can see it.

Or maybe, if you want a website to make you cry, you should go and look for one? Maybe it’s your fault for not looking hard enough? Or Google’s fault for not indexing them properly when you search for ‘websites to make me cry’?

Unless of course there’s something fundamental in the nature of screens that means that they can’t convey emotion unless they’re connected to a TV signal or a DVD player. In which case I take back everything I’ve just said. And I totally blame the Internet (and computers) for being emotionally void.

There’s other answers to ‘websites that make you cry’ question too. But I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that personal messages can’t be emotionally rich, or devastating. I’m supposing that the commenter was referring to what brands can do to convey emotion / make you cry.

To state the bleeding obvious. It’s not about Film VS the Internet, it’s about Film AND the Internet. And getting on top of at the amazing opportunities that we have to tell stories AND create experiences that get people involved in a deeper way.

Amen brothers and sisters. Let’s collaborate and share, to make people cry online. Together.

Life Is For Connectedly Sharing Better – The Advertising Myth

Experts predict that, if current trends continue, by q4 2010 all advertising will feature groups of people making something big and impressive.

Recent examples of the genre are:

A big domino toppling thing,

a big, unfolded newspaper,

a ‘hand made’ internet,

a big picture,

a rainbow,

an orchestra (forget for a minute that orchestras are made up of people collaborating and doing things together, this is an orchestra with a twist)

a big picnic,

Or milking a massive 80 foot udder. Actually that last one is a lie – or it might be a premonition.

I actually genuinely admire a number of these adverts. But put that aside for a couple of minutes…

Groups of people having fun together has always been good advertising fodder. We all want to be social and do fun stuff with our friends. It’s just that the groups featured in ads now have to be much bigger because technology has delivered us bigger groups of friends and contacts. In fact, everyone is now our friend, potentially.

As a technique it works especially well for brands that are about communication. Or socialising. Or simply not being on your own. Which is pretty much everyone. Apart from the Samaritans.

I guess it’s inevitable that we should end up with a bunch of not-dissimilar ads when everyone’s briefs contain words like sharing, or connection, or enablement. And given that infinite, always-on connections have changed the world in untold ways your brand would look a little out-of-touch if you didn’t at least nod to these things.

Then you’ve got the challenge of bringing things to life in 30s film. Which is far from easy. And let’s face it people outside, in the real world, doing something active is always going to be more visually interesting than the slightly dull reality.

Who wants to watch a bunch of people sat in their bedrooms, physically alone? Their only connection through wires? A girl sitting at her computer looks just like a girl sitting at her computer. She could be IMing her friend with an OMG because she’s unproved Fermat’s theorem, or because she just heard what Debbie said about Suzi. It’s the things that are in heads, on screens and coming down wires that are interesting and important. Not stuff a camera can easily capture.

293 people might be collaborating right now, on their computers, and be seconds away from ending climate change. But they’d look exactly the same as 293 people playing World of Warcraft. There would be no visual clues.

Which is, I guess, why advertising has to dial-up the excitement. To create quick, easy-to-grasp metaphors for collaboration and combined human effort.

But there’s a part of me that feels like the point gets overlooked for the sake of a nice colourful ad.

If you’ve ever actually been a part of something online, there’s something nice about the initial non-physicality. The fact that you’re not compelled to be a good looking, smiling stereotype that works as part of a human chain gang. You can be ugly, grumpy and totally asynchronous and still a hugely valuable part of the effort.

Every day millions of people experience comfort, pleasure, excitement, joy, anger, sadness, love, loss, hatred, passion, enlightenment, the horn and more. All online. All virtually. But this gets glossed over in ads. Because it’s not easy to represent in film. So we revert to metaphors of physical closeness and connection. Ideally in a sunny field. Which is kind of like the internet. In a way. Kinda.

That’s not to say that online relationships and collaborations don’t end up in real, solid, actual-world friendships and meetups. They do. But that typically comes later. And it’s more of a case of checking-in, sizing people up, and seeing how it goes. Not getting together to unfold a big newspaper.

But sometimes people do arrange to meet up with a large group of people to do something together. Sometimes it’s an incredibly useful and important thing, like a political rally. But sometimes it’s spontaneous and frivolous and pointless. And these latter things became known as flashmobs.

And now, inevitably, there’s an advert about a flashmob…

You can’t escape it. It’s on TransVision screens at all the London stations, escalator panels on the underground, the telly, and on the YouTubes (with a huge number of variants including the 2.41s mega-ad above). It’s pretty much everywhere. I’ve tried hiding from it. But it keeps on finding me.

Again. To be clear. I don’t dislike it as an advert.

But the truth is it couldn’t not have happened. It’s got the hip-but-not-too-hipness of flashmobs combined with looking just like one of ‘these ads’ should. And by creating this spectacular advert using choreography, trained dancers, etc. etc. etc. The ad becomes just an ad.

But it’s not surprising that they have to fake it, when an actual flashmob looks like this:

(I recorded this at the ‘Rick Rolling’ Flash Mob last year – I was not proud to be there)

Spot the differences:

Real

  • 98% observers – with absolutely no chance that any of the watchers are going to join in, they’re just watching
  • No audible music whatsoever
  • No one being quite sure what’s going on
  • A total lack of any kind of choreography
  • Just fades out when people get bored (very quickly)

Imagined

  • 30% observers dropping to 22% as a load of people spontaneously join in
  • Loud and jolly music to dance to
  • A core of people knowing what they’re doing and a bunch other people who get swept along
  • Nice choreography
  • A wonderful moment in time

The one thing that they have in common is people filming / photographing it. And to give it credit the T-Mobile ‘event’ does a great job of continuing the illusion by getting a bunch of assorted ‘real’ people to talk about their experiences of the flashmob:

Enthusiastic folk who’ve just seen a TV ad being filmed + editing = magic! If you’d done it you would though wouldn’t you…

I don’t dislike any of the ads above. I think they do a nice job of capturing a feeling and a vision of collaboration. And of course I’m not suggesting that advertising has to reflect reality. Otherwise it wouldn’t be advertising anymore.

However, my suspicion is that we’re seeing adverts made by people who haven’t been collaborating deeply online. Who haven’t been a part of these things. Who don’t understand the subtle, emotional things that happen in online relationships and groups. Another part of the reason we end up with big, generic, broad-brush, advertising. Things that work, in general, for some of the population.

But maybe broadcast media isn’t the place to tell the (more) interesting, deeper stories. The stories that happen quietly, inside the wires, over the airwaves, through the devices and in people’s minds.

Perhaps stories of togetherness and collaboration are best told in places where people are together, collaborating. And perhaps they should be told in ways that reflect the brilliance, excitement and usefulness of what doing things together using tools and technologies – not metaphors – is actually all about.

Or maybe in those places it’s not about telling stories at all.

Maybe. Just maybe.

Anyone got any thoughts?

Free Contagious Roundup of 2008

Most Contagious 2008

The nice folk at Contagious Magazine are giving away their roundup of the most contagious stuff of 2008 for free. You don’t even need to give them any details or nothing: click here to download the PDF.

Sorry, I know it’s a year out of date now. But it might be a good one for the archives. Or as a useful refresher if, like me, you’re feeling a bit behind the curve today.

What I’m Feeling About Webby Connect

Zi6_0086

It’s interesting. But through the sessions it’s becoming very clear that it’s a world of 2 halves.

One half is people who believe that it’s just business as normal. Everything conforms to the old rules in the end. It’s all about talent, content, films and monetization through advertising. And things like fragmentation are just are just an irksome inconvenience than can be sorted out later using old-school big money hammers. There’s glimpses of new thinking. But rightly or wrongly there’s lots of clinging to old stuff too.

Examples:
http://lstudio.lexus.com
http://www.inthemotherhood.com/
http://www.thewb.com

Photo 8

The other world is made up of designers, inventors and entrepreneurs. People who love making things. Guys who understand online culture and user experience. They value simplicity, focus, single mindedness and more often than not have built something for themselves that it turns out (and I don’t think by accident) other people love too.

Examples:
http://www.muxtape.com
http://www.mint.com
http://www.tumblr.com
http://www.aaronkoblin.com/
http://www.hulger.com

And then there’s the anomalies. Guys like the New York Times who you’d expect to be in the first group, but quite brilliantly exist fairly firmly in the second.

I’m not saying that one or other of the groups is necessarily right or wrong. They can both be right and do their thing. But one costs less, is more fun and feels like the spot where ‘real’ creativity is occurring.

I’m talking tomorrow. Eek.

Wario Land – Shake it! Wii Advertising

YouTube - experiencewii's Channel

This YouTube Channel for Wario Land is great. We’ve seen the technique before, but it really works here and was a genuine surprise. (Sorry, I guess I’ve spoiled it already, but take a look).

And the game looks great too. The Wario franchise has always had some neat interface innovations, this looks to continue that tradition.

There was one thing that disappointed me a bit; the clip looks embeddable (as a bit of Flash) from the YouTube page. I almost peed my pants when I thought that I could embed the clip and it’d shake my blog to bits when someone played the video from my post. But unfortunately not. Or at least the embedding didn’t work at all for me.

This has been featured by the always on-the-ball fellows at Adverblog, but thanks to Iain at Moo for the tip off.

Advertising Gambling as Insurance

I guess it had to happen. Everyone’s realised that finance is a big gamble. So Paddy Power have started advertising their betting service as a kind of insurance against your holiday being ruined by an airline going bust.

Paddy Power Advert

The ad was placed in the Guardian travel supplement on Saturday.

More than half of me hates it. Less than half of me thinks it’s clever.

Crisps and Conversations

I’ve been a bit of a sceptic about interactivity and FMCGs. Most of the time they just create digital litter.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a big fan of crisps. But Walkers seem to be doing some peculiarly interesting things around conversations and their brands.

Firstly the brilliant ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign. (If you’ve not seen it, they’re getting people to submit new flavors of potato chips. If you submit the winning flavour you get ¬£50k and a 1% share of the profits from the new flavour).

The site’s got a lot of shortcomings. It doesn’t handle duplicates at all well, and the searching isn’t up to scratch. But it obviously doesn’t matter that much to people: 130,000 pages of entries – 6 to a page – gives almost 800,000 flavours submitted. That’s bloody incredible.

But they deserve it. They’ve built the campaign around a great question. A superb conversation starter. I’ve ended up two or three times now in conversations where people have got really excited about coming up with interesting new and bizarre flavours of crisps. And debating what would actually sell. What’s likely to win. Etc. etc. etc.

It’s a brilliant user generated content idea becuase anyone can do it. You don’t have to have any technical skills whatsoever. It’s just about imagining something. And something that almost all of us will have an opinion on whether we’ve thought about it before or not.

Once the submissions round is over. They’re going to manufacture the judges favourite top 6 flavours and let the public choose which of them wins. Generating trial / sales and driving even more conversations. As a genuinely integrated campaign I think it’s quite brilliant.

And now they’ve re-launched Monster Munch crisps. But they’ve not made a new version. Instead they’ve reverted to the old one.

monster_munch

What’s so clever about this is that they’ve tapped into a conversation that’s been going on for decades amongst crisp fanciers. Everyone knows that the old Monster Munch were bigger. They were ‘the biggest snack pennies can buy’. And they had really cool big monsters advertising them. It’s the kind of thing that pops up in those terrible ’50 reasons why things aren’t as good as they used to be’ nostalgiawank TV shows.

Anyway they’ve made them like they used to be again. And I love the ‘old’ flash on the top corner of the pack.

And if you’re wondering how big they are now. This is how big…

monster_munch_10p_size

Apparently there’s a new website coming soon too. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for it being the next brilliant thing online. If they follow the normal FMCG template it’ll be all about the monsters. Maybe some flims? Perhaps embeddable / sendable monsters? Monster games? I hope they do something really nice though. Building on what they’ve done so far.

And just in case you don’t remember the original Monster Munch monsters from the TV ads…

Painted Streetvertising

You can’t flypost, but you can paint a massive huge bloody advert for deodorant with flowers on it onto the wall.

I think I object.

Painted Streetvertising