By Mark Zweig

Most, if not all, local small businesses in Northwest Arkansas that are struggling or have failed can be attributed to their lack of marketing and advertising efforts, which becomes evident once you delve into the complete truth about them.

I know of a business owner in Northwest Arkansas who says he will shut it down any day due to a lack of business, yet who still will not make even a single free Facebook or Instagram post. He also doesn’t do any internet, radio, billboard or television advertising, nor does he use hangtags for doors, send out direct mail, do email blasts, use SEO or sponsor a Little League baseball team. There is just no marketing whatsoever.

I don’t think this situation is that unusual for many small businesses. Why is this the case? There are several reasons, including:

  1. The owners of these small businesses think they can’t afford it. They see marketing and advertising as an overhead expense, like rent or insurance, and if they can avoid spending anything there, it is money they can put in their pockets and take home to their families.
  2. They don’t believe marketing and advertising work. My experience is that if you spend “X” on marketing and advertising, you will get a certain number of sales or dollar amount of sales from it. So spend X, and get X times 10 or X times 20. What will that kind of volume increase do in terms of business viability and profitability? Think about your own business. But for this relationship to work, it takes consistent activity and spending. I have often heard, “We tried advertising, and it didn’t work.” You can’t do it once or twice and expect that to produce results. It may not.
  3. These small business owners are hung up on the idea that “word-of-mouth is the best advertising,” so they do nothing. They forget that to get word-of-mouth, customers have to buy from the business or use it in the first place. Without marketing and advertising, you will never get the word-of-mouth flywheel going.
  4. They don’t know how to market. Most small business owners are good at something — they are good cooks, carpenters, sewing, or getting people to exercise correctly. That’s why they went into business in the first place. But what they don’t know anything about is marketing and advertising. So instead of going outside their business to find help, they give up. There are so many marketing companies and advertising sources that can help a small business, not to mention marketing students who would love the chance to work with a real business here in NWA, that there is no excuse for not being able to get help.

Let me conclude by saying that I am not someone who’s just done a lot of reading about this stuff and is now opining about it. In my businesses, I always invested in marketing. That’s how two of my companies got on the Inc. 500/5000 list — one of them three times. And today, the new and existing businesses I am involved with heavily invest in marketing and advertising and have a revenue growth curve that reflects that.

Contrary to what your CPA/tax advisor may tell you, a small business can be worth far more than what you can extract annually. The value of the business is directly related to the revenue growth rate, not to mention that a growing business tends to be more profitable than a stable (i.e., stagnant) business.

So now is the time for small business owners to stop handwringing and start investing in a consistent marketing and advertising program. Do it now before it’s too late.

By Mark Zweig

([email protected]) Mark Zweig is the founder of two Fayetteville-based Inc. 500/5000 companies. He is also entrepreneur-in-residence in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and author of the award-winning book, “Confessions of an Entrepreneur.” The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Sourced from TB&P


By Jonathan Vanian

  • New technology that converts text prompts into headlines, conversational paragraphs and images is in the early days of making its way into online ads.

  • Along with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, all the major online ad platforms are testing generative artificial intelligence tools.

  • “This is going to have a seismic impact on digital advertising,” said Cristina Lawrence, executive vice president of consumer and content experience at Razorfish.


Shortly after ChatGPT hit the market last year and instantly captured headlines for its ability to appear human in answering user queries, digital marketing veteran Shane Rasnak began experimenting.

As someone who had built a career in creating online ad campaigns for clients, Rasnak saw how generative artificial intelligence could transform his industry. Whether it was coming up with headlines for Facebook

ads or short blurbs of ad copy, Rasnak said, jobs that would have taken him 30 minutes to an hour are now 15-minute projects.

And that’s just the beginning.

Rasnak is also playing with generative AI tools such as Midjourney, which turns text-based prompts into images, as he tries to dream up compelling visuals to accompany Facebook ads. The software is particularly handy for someone without a graphic design background, Rasnak said, and can help alongside popular graphic-editing tools from Canva and Adobe’s  Photoshop.

While it’s all still brand new, Rasnak said generative AI is “like the advent of social media” in terms of its impact on the digital ad industry. Facebook and Twitter made it possible for advertisers to target consumers based on their likes, friends and interests, and generative AI now gives them the ability to create tailored messaging and visuals in building and polishing campaigns.

“In terms of how we market our work, the output, the quality and the volume that they’re able to put out, and how personalized you can get as a result of that, that just completely changes everything,” Rasnak said.

Rasnak is far from alone on the hype train.

Meta, Alphabet and Amazon, the leaders in online advertising, are all betting generative AI will eventually be core to their businesses. They’ve each recently debuted products or announced plans to develop various tools to help companies more easily create messages, images and even videos for their respective platforms.

Generative A.I. startups are driving VC deals

Generative A.I. startups are driving VC deals

Their products are mostly still in trial phases and, in some cases, have been criticized for being rushed to market, but ad experts told CNBC that, taken as a whole, generative AI represents the next logical step in targeted online advertising.

“This is going to have a seismic impact on digital advertising,” said Cristina Lawrence, executive vice president of consumer and content experience at Razorfish, a digital marketing agency that’s part of the ad giant Publicis Groupe

In May, Meta announced its AI Sandbox testing suite for companies to more easily use generative AI software to create background images and experiment with different advertising copy. The company also introduced updates to its Meta Advantage service, which uses machine learning to improve the efficiency of ads running on its various social apps.

Meta has been pitching the Advantage suite as a way for companies to get better performance from their campaigns after Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update limited their ability to track users across the internet.

‘Personalization at scale’

As these new offerings improve over time, a bicycle company, for example, could theoretically target Facebook users in Utah by showing AI-generated graphics of people cycling through desert canyons, while users in San Francisco could be shown cyclists cruising over the Golden Gate Bridge, ad experts predict. The text of the ad could be tailored based on the person’s age and interests.

“You can be using it for that sort of personalization at scale,” Lawrence said.

Meta’s Advantage service has been gaining traction with retailers using it for automated shopping ads, according to data shared with CNBC by online marketing firm Varos.

In May 2023, roughly 2,100 companies spent $47 million, or about 27.5% of their combined total monthly Meta advertising budgets on Advantage+, the Varos data showed. A month earlier, those companies directed 26.6% of their budget, or $44.9 million, to Advantage+.

Last August, when Meta formally debuted its Advantage+ automated shopping ads, companies put less than 1% of their Meta ad spend into the offering.

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, Oct. 17, 2019.

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, Oct. 17, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Varos CEO Yarden Shaked said the increase shows Facebook is having some success in persuading advertisers to rely on its automated ad technology. However, Shaked said he’s “not sold on the creative piece yet,” regarding Meta’s nascent foray into providing generative AI tools for advertisers.

Similarly, Rasnak said Midjourney’s tool isn’t “quite there yet” when it comes to producing realistic imagery that could be incorporated into an online ad, but is effective at generating “cartoony designs” that resonate with some smaller clients.

Jay Pattisall, an analyst at Forrester, said several major hurdles prevent generative AI from having a major immediate impact on the online ad industry.

One is brand safety. Companies are uncomfortable outsourcing campaigns to generative AI, which can generate visuals and phrases that reflect certain biases or are otherwise offensive and can be inaccurate.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News found that AI-created imagery from the popular Stable Diffusion tool produced visuals that reflected a number of stereotypes, generating images of people with darker skin tones when fed prompts such as “fast-food worker” or “social worker” and associating lighter skin tones with high-paying jobs.

There are also potential legal issues when it comes to using generative AI powered by models trained on data that’s “scraped from the internet,” Pattisall said. Reddit, Twitter and Stack Overflow have said they will charge AI companies for use of the mounds of data on their platforms.

Scott McKelvey, a longtime marketing writer and consultant, cited other limitations surrounding the quality of the output. Based on his limited experience with ChatGPT, the AI chatbot created by OpenAI, McKelvey said the technology fails to produce the kind of long-form content that companies could find useful as promotional copy.

“It can provide fairly generic content, pulling from information that’s already out there,” McKelvey said. “But there’s no distinctive voice or point of view, and while some tools claim to be able to learn your brand voice based on your prompts and your inputs, I haven’t seen that yet.”

An OpenAI spokesperson declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Meta said in an email that the company has done extensive research to try to mitigate bias in its AI systems. Additionally, the company said it has brand-safety tools intended to give advertisers more control over where their ads appear online and it will remove any AI-generated content that’s in violation of its rules.

“We are actively monitoring any new trends in AI-generated content,” the email said. “If the substance of the content, regardless of its creation mechanism, violates our Community Standards or Ads Standards, we remove the content. We are in the process of reviewing our public-facing policies to ensure that this standard is clear.”

The Meta spokesperson added that as new chatbots and other automated tools come to market, “the industry will need to find ways to meet novel challenges for responsible deployment of AI in production” and “Meta intends to remain at the forefront of that work.”

Stacy Reed, an online advertising and Facebook ads consultant, is currently incorporating generative AI into her daily work. She’s using the software to come up with variations of Facebook advertising headlines and short copy, and said it’s been helpful in a world where it’s more difficult to track users online.

Reed described generative AI as a good “starting point,” but said companies and marketers still need to hone their own brand messaging strategy and not rely on generic content. Generative AI doesn’t “think” like a human strategist when producing content and often relies on a series of prompts to refine the text, she explained.

Thus, companies shouldn’t simply rely on the technology to do the big picture thinking of knowing what themes resonate with different audiences or how to execute major campaigns across multiple platforms.

“I’m dealing with large brands that are struggling, because they’ve been so disconnected from the average customer that they’re no longer speaking their language,” Reed said.

For now, major ad agencies and big companies are using generative AI mostly for pilot projects while waiting for the technology to develop, industry experts said.

Earlier this year, Mint Mobile aired an ad featuring actor and co-owner Ryan Reynolds reading a script that he said was generated from ChatGPT. He asked the program to write the ad in his voice and use a joke, a curse word and to let the audience know that the promotion is still going.

After reading the AI-created text, Reynolds said, “That is mildly terrifying, but compelling.”

Feature Image Credit: Sebastien Bozon | AFP | Getty Images

By Jonathan Vanian


Sourced from CNBC


Campaigns made misleading claims about charging times and rapid-charging points in UK and Ireland, ASA says

The UK advertising watchdog has banned campaigns by Toyota and Hyundai for exaggerating the speed at which electric cars can be charged and misleading consumers about the availability of rapid-charging points across the UK and Ireland.

The Japanese car firm Toyota ran a marketing campaign on its website for its bZ4X model with the text “making electric easy”. The site claimed the vehicle could be charged to 80% in about 30 minutes using a 150kW fast-charging system.

Toyota said drivers could “easily find rapid-charging points in a number of public locations”, especially in areas where “drivers were most likely to need them”, such as main travel points on motorways and large arterial roads.

Hyundai ran a similar campaign – using its own website, a digital billboard in London’s Piccadilly Square and a YouTube film featuring footballers from the Premier League club Chelsea, which the South Korean car manufacturer sponsors – promoting its Ioniq 5 model electric car.

The campaign claimed the vehicle could be charged from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes using a 350kW charger.

An image from Hyundai’s brochure which prompted a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority.
An image from Hyundai’s brochure which prompted a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority. Photograph: ASA/PA

The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints challenging whether the charging times, which both companies admitted were achieved in perfect factory conditions, were achievable in the real world.

The claims about the availability of rapid-charging points across the UK, which would affect the likelihood of consumers achieving the claimed charging time, were also challenged.

Toyota said that at the time it ran the ad campaign, Zap Map, which shows where charging points are located, did not show the precise locations of rapid 150kW chargers but showed that overall there were 419 charging points at 134 locations across the UK. However, there were just seven in Scotland, two in Wales and none in Northern Ireland.

Similarly, the Charge myHyundai website showed that there were 37 ultra-fast 350kW charging locations in Great Britain, six in the Republic of Ireland, “limited numbers” in Wales and Scotland, and none in Northern Ireland.

The bZ4X electric car pictured beside a beach
The bZ4X electric car from Toyota. Photograph: Nathan Leach-Proffer/AP

The companies said their claims were not misleading as it was unlikely that drivers would need rapid-charging points on shorter journeys, meaning they could use the more widely available slower charge points, with many people using points fitted at home.

However, the ASA said the manufacturers had given the impression it was “relatively straightforward” to access rapid-charging points across the UK.

The watchdog also found that numerous factors affected charging times in the real world, including the age and condition of a battery, the ambient temperature, and the battery temperature, all of which were controlled by the manufacturers in the tests used to make the claims.

“If any of those conditions were less than optimal, then charging times would likely take longer,” the ASA said.

The car manufacturers said it was essential that they be allowed to promote EV potential charge times to consumers to address obstacles to consumer take-up, such as range and charge anxiety, and a lack of awareness of the rollout of charging infrastructure.

However, the ASA banned the ad campaigns, the first ban it has instigated against electric car advertising claims, and told Toyota and Hyundai not to mislead consumers about battery charging times in future.

“We concluded that because the ads omitted material information about the factors that could significantly affect the advertised charging time and the limitations in relation to availability … the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading,” the ASA ruled.

Feature Image Credit: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters


Sourced from The Guardian

By Vida Cornelius

A blueprint for making cultural progress in 2023

We are 63 years past what advertising historian and author Lawrence Dobrow’s book referred to as “The Golden Age of Advertising.” An era where creativity abounded amidst the backdrop of dramatic economic and societal changes, human rights activism, and a burgeoning interest in alternative lifestyles. What was once the product-as-hero creative style of the 1950s was evolved by creative minds welding the emotive power, persuasion, irony and cynicism of changing times. Bill Bernbach famously penned the word “Lemon” in a single-word headline to describe the Volkswagen Beetle, starting a creative revolution.

Advertising’s creative minds gave birth to the spokesperson, the mascot and the brand personality. These fictitious characters entered our homes, their shiny, smiling faces stared back at us every time we opened our pantry. They took up space in our consciousness, to forever conjure feelings of nostalgia. Even if a mascot had overt racial or sexist overtones, we turned a blind eye to the offense. And it would take decades for the bitter history behind those characters to be challenged. Because in 1960, unlike in 2023, we just wanted to eat those pancakes in the box.

Advertising creativity evolved again in the 1970s and ’80s with the support of consumer insights. It went beyond staking a claim on demographics to owning and manipulating our psychographics. Insights became the fertile ground to plant creative seeds. Pepsi claimed to be for the young and fun, and created the “Pepsi Generation.” This was a defining moment in how a brand and its advertising messages could shift a societal construct—redefining what it meant to be young vs. old, celebrated vs. obsolete, and in the know vs. out of touch. For brands, it made the proposition of owning a mindset, and building brand perception based on that mindset, more coveted than selling the product itself.

Fast forward to today, amid cultural conversations driving societal re-examinations of representation and equity, what is our creative responsibility now?

As history has shown us, advertising retains its power to make indelible imprints on society and on self-perception. When this power is used irresponsibly, the impact is irreparable for a brand. Trust is lost, credibility is annihilated, and regaining a position of relevance is an arduous, upward, often unsuccessful climb. But advertising creativity, when held in conscious, empathetic hands, has the unique ability to not only reflect society but to course-correct its ills and potentially shapeshift them into a more enlightened, inclusive standard. The 1990s mantra of “Just Do It” encouraged us to run more than the corporate “rat race,” but shifted to running as a source of joy.

Our responsibility now is to use culture to guide us toward unearthing the unseen moments of innovation and inclusion that exist. We must look beyond the familiar, to make way for stories that are complex, varied and truly representative of the whole of humanity. Apple’s “The Greatest” sheds an empowered light on accessibility by dialing down the limitation of disabilities to celebrate the exponential possibilities. We are better brand stewards if we do the work to understand consumer voices of all walks of life and at all times of life, not just when there is a “bandwagon cultural moment.” The last three years have forced us to reflect on how we see the world around us and participate in cultural conversations we were never invited into before. As creators, our job is not to be opportunistic but to always see where an opportunity for understanding is needed and make a path for it. To bring divergent points of view, histories and experiences together, and to create thoughtfully shared realities.

As creatives, we must push our craft and guide our clients to try harder:

  • Try harder, at being conscious and inclusive by delivering purposeful, representative storytelling.
  • Try harder, at knowing how to hold UP the mirror versus trying to BE the mirror of customers.
  • Try harder, at making an impact by showing up with a purpose to serve society first, not themselves.

Make “action” the strategy. When a brand is committed to being creatively conscious by design, only then can they lean into the spaces and sometimes uncomfortable places where their actions and voices can authentically be heard, be useful, and empathize with the consumers they aspire to serve.

Committing to building conscious creative is how we move forward and how we make advertising truly try harder, again.

By Vida Cornelius

Vida Cornelius is VP creative at New York Times Advertising.

Sourced from Muse by Clio

By Seb Joseph and Krystal Scanlon

The public boycott of advertising on Twitter is starting to look a lot like a long goodbye.

GroupM, the world’s largest media buying agency, is telling clients that Twitter is now a “high risk” media buy following a barrage of controversies, U-turns and confusion that capped off Elon Musk’s second week as the owner of the social network.

The advice was shared in a document, seen by Digiday, that warns marketers of the risks of advertising on the volatile social network. It reads: “Based on the news yesterday [Nov. 10] of additional senior management resignations from key posts, high profile examples of blue check abuse on corporate accounts, and the potential inability for Twitter to comply with their federal consent decree, GroupM’s Twitter Risk Assessment is increased to a High-Risk rating for all tactics.”

If this stance is to change, Twitter has to resolve several issues, per the document. They are as follows:

    • Return to baseline NSFW levels
    • Re-population of IT security, privacy, trust & safety senior staff
    • Establishment of internal checks & balances
    • Full transparency on future development plans of community guidelines/content moderation/ anything affecting user security or brand safety
  • Demonstrated commitment to effective content moderation, enforcing current Twitter Rules, e.g., account impersonation, violative content removal timing, intolerance of hate speech & misinformation, etc.

It’s a reminder of where the real power lies in this standoff between Twitter and advertisers. Hint: advertising on Twitter has always been a nice to have, not a must have for the advertisers that spend on it. That may be one of the few things that hasn’t changed since Musk took over.

That’s not to say that advertisers are apathetic on Twitter’s fate. They’re concerned, of course — the social network still serves as a major cog in the global news cycle, after all — but they’re not rattled. Not even as Twitter’s senior ranks unravel.

The unraveling accelerated after Musk held an hour-long pow wow on the platform last week (Nov 10). It was done to reassure advertisers that Twitter’s future was fine. A series of sudden resignations and subsequent reversals of them revealed they were anything but. Not least because it involved some of the same people who have wanted the market to believe in Musk. Robin Wheeler, Twitter’s de facto head of ad sales, for starters. A little over a day after she was talking up Musk’s plans on Twitter Spaces, she resigned, and then decided to stay, per Bloomberg.

The symbolism isn’t lost on marketers.

“Corporance governance is shifting all the time,” said one senior marketer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to Digiday. “I can afford to wait and see how this all shakes out. This isn’t like Facebook or YouTube where we might structure media plans around those platforms. On the contrary, our organization is trying to call in any fungible spending right now. Thank you Mr. Musk.”

It gets worse. The other executive on that call with Musk and Wheeler — Twitter’s head of trust and safety Yoel Roth — also resigned. Unlike Wheeler, Roth doesn’t seem to have reversed that decision. Neither has Twitter’s chief information security officer and chief privacy officer, who have also resigned. Oh, and don’t forget all this is happening as the Federal Trade Commission watches on with “deep concern.”

So not only does Twitter pose a brand safety risk to advertisers, it could also be a cybersecurity risk too.

Either one would blow a hole in the ads business of any platform in the current climate — let alone one that most marketers aren’t too concerned about.

“Yes, Twitter is part of the cultural moment, but it doesn’t have a good direct response product so spending there is quite nebulous — or just not good,” said a media director at one of the advertisers that has stopped advertising on the social network. “It’s never been a critical part of the media strategies or plans that I oversee.”

Nothing Musk has said to advertisers either on stage, on calls or even his tweets has been able to change that sobering fact. In fact, the more the controversial billionaire talks about Twitter and advertising on it, the more confused advertisers seem to get.

The way Musk sees it, Twitter is like a town square where “freedom of speech is not freedom of reach”. In other words, people can say all sorts of things — some of it even unsavory — it just doesn’t necessarily have to get amplified to the masses.

The problem is who gets to decide what gets amplified? Whatever the answer is, chances are it’s going to be inextricably linked to pernicious relativism. It’s hard to see otherwise after Musk said he viewed the “truth is a nebulous concept”. Controversy is never far from views like this, and that’s the last thing marketers want to be near right now.

“Elon saying ‘truth is a nebulous concept’ at the start of the session is highly concerning,” said Ruben Schreurs, group chief product officer at media management firm Ebiquity. “This is Kellyanne Conway making a case for ‘alternative facts’ all over again. Truth is truth, simple as that. There’s nothing nebulous about it.”

Schreurs frustration echoes a lot of what the 15 ad executives Digiday has spoken to since Musk took have said. They bemoan a pitch to advertisers that’s light on core principles and permanently in a state of flux, or as amenable behind closed doors as it is combative in the spotlight. In short, marketers aren’t too bothered by what Musk says on Twitter Spaces, at conferences or behind closed doors. They only care about what he does.

“Speaking more specifically about our client set that potentially applies to an even broader group of advertisers, Twitter is not integral enough to their advertising mix to demand this much of their attention and time,” said Adam Telian, vp of media services at marketing agency New Engen.

Needless to say, those pulled ad dollars don’t look like they’re going to be coming back this side of 2023. Then again, they never really were. Advertisers had essentially cut short their spending for this year on Twitter. Nothing Musk has done so far has been able to convince them otherwise.

His new verification scheme? The indecision over it has allowed for fake and parody accounts to proliferate in its slipstream. What about Musk’s plan for Twitter to take another crack at video, or become a payments company or even re-architect the backend of its ad tech in order to power better targeting? Easier said than done at the company in the throes of an employee exodus. It’s the same with his threats. Remember, Musk’s vow to “thermonuclear name and shame” the advertisers that had pulled ad dollars? Still waiting.

Color marketers confused.

“At a base level, Twitter’s reason for being is currently very unclear, as evidenced by his “we’re going to be everything” comments, making it a highly suspect platform to spend money on,” said Evan Levy, president at ad agency Fitzco. “We know TikTok’s reason for being. We know the NFL’s reason for being. Understanding the platforms or properties we’re investing media dollars into should be table stakes. Twitter? To be determined – and so should brands’ investment there.”

It’s a precarious position for any business built on ad dollars — even more so one that’s intrinsically entwined to Musk. His antics are having a direct impact on the business on multiple fronts. Not that he would know. Rather, Musk believes, as stated in meetings with advertisers, that his actions should be divorced from his business — even as ad dollars continue to pour out of it as a direct result of what he’s doing. Regardless of how he opts to try and prop up his flagging asset, the clock is ticking. The entrepreneur has already warned that his company won’t be able to come through the economic downturn if it can’t replace the ad dollars the business has lost since his arrival with additional income. Bankruptcy is not out of the question, he has said. Advertisers are a lot of things, charitable isn’t one of them.

Featrue Image Credit: Ivy Liu 

By Seb Joseph and Krystal Scanlon

Sourced from DIGIDAY

Why shifting dynamics could mean a pivot back to brand and product

It’s hard to overstate just how dominant purpose-driven advertising has become at award shows. Eight of the 11 Grand Clio winners this year were purpose-based campaigns—and they were even more triumphant in the south of France. But all trends eventually run their course, and 2022 might turn out to be the high-water mark for the purpose trend. Why? Because the social media era as we know it is coming to an end.

It’s true. The major social media channels are following Tiktok’s lead and switching their algorithms to a “recommendation” model. That will fundamentally change the way social works. So what does that have to do with purpose-driven campaigns? Social media has been a primary driver of the purpose trend.

I often see this theory that purpose-driven work became so prevalent because advertising agencies and brands are “woke” and are “virtue signalling” to attract a young, progressive audience. That’s only half right: The demographics brands crave are more progressive and more engaged on social channels. And it’s on those social channels that they’re discussing social issues.

Up to now, the engine that drove social media conversation has been news and cultural events—the stuff brands build their social calendars around. But moving forward, users will see fewer posts from their friends and friends’ friends, and more from strangers the channel’s engine thinks they’ll like. And that content will almost certainly be less “wired” to the Calendar.

Here’s the rub. The Calendar is what makes it possible for agencies to plan ahead and make investments. They all focus their most ambitious campaigns around basically the same set of cultural moments in the year. And those moments inform the brief.

The Calendar explains why a financial services company ran its biggest campaign ever on International Women’s Day.

It’s how a cat food brand winds up running a campaign about coral reefs for World Ocean’s Day.

It’s why a beer company made noise on Global Recycling Day.

It’s why my former fast-food client had us make a splash on World Peace Day.

And, full disclosure, it’s why my team teased a special edition OLED on #MaytheFourth.

Now it’s pretty clear that before social media, none of these brands would’ve asked agencies to produce campaigns for these points in time—let alone make major investments in them and make them the centrepiece of their annual creative efforts. It’s the Calendar that enabled the plans to secure those budgets, and it’s the social conversation on those days that promised the eyeballs and engagement.

So what happens next?

I’m not suggesting the idea of brand purpose or purpose-driven initiatives will come to an end. But if you look at all the headwinds—the algorithm changes to Facebook and Instagram, the uncertainty around Twitter, and the growing backlash to purpose work that misses the mark—all of that points to fewer large-scale purpose campaigns.

I happen to think a lot of what has been called “purpose-driven” work is terrific—and much of it has been successful in raising awareness about important social issues, as well as commercially. But if social media channels begin to behave more like traditional media, that might mean less of those campaigns, more portability of ads across channels, and maybe, just maybe, a step back towards brand and product.

By John Long

John Long has held creative leadership positions at Ogilvy, The Economist Group and Huge. He is currently executive creative director at LG’s in-house agency, HS Ad.

Sourced from Muse by Clio

By David Baldwin

Back in the 1970s, people encountered 500 to 1,600 ads daily. If that number seems mind-blowing to you, set your mind fire extinguishers to full geyser because today the average person comes across somewhere between 4,000 to 10,000 ads in a single day.

It makes sense, right? In the ‘70s you had fewer, mostly analog media choices compared to today where you have all the traditional outlets plus tons of social media feeds, podcasts, satellite radio, banners, product placement, and all the digital hoohah serving you ads at an ever-escalating rate. We are swimming in advertising not to mention being tracked and cookied to death. (Cookie-less world, sure.)

In fact, I’d argue that social media has outkicked its coverage with advertising. Because we’re on the receiving end of such a nonstop barrage from these platforms that they don’t really exist – in any recognizable way – for the reasons they started in the first place. Remember when Facebook was about connecting with friends and Instagram was about sharing photos? Until we say, “Enough!” there will never be enough for the feeds.

So, the question is: What and how are we being fed?

First, let’s clarify, I’m an advertising guy. I’ve been doing this for going on (almost) four decades. I love advertising. When it’s good, it’s great and when it’s bad, it’s annoying – a very simple equation. But in my mind, that’s the game. Try to do the good stuff that people like and you can change everything.

It doesn’t take a raft of research to realize that most advertising these days now comes from the direct marketing wisdom of the ages: ROI-driven, tried and true rules. Never mind that the history of direct marketing is littered with campaigns that bucked the system and engaged its consumers with wonderful content and won big results. But sadly, that work has never been the norm, and it certainly isn’t these days.

And maybe I just committed what might be the problem: The word “consumer” and the idea that we’re “consumers.”

How did we – human beings with thoughts and feelings, wives, husbands, children, families, relationships – ever allow ourselves to be relegated and chained to the idea of consumption?

Are you a consumer? Really? Is that why you exist, to consume? Look at your little children, are they consumers? Are you a locust descending on a field to consume all in your path? I hope not.

And you might say it’s just a word but my orientation as a copywriter is that words are everything and how we label things bends perceptions. And man, have we bent our perceptions to think of ourselves as “consumers.”

Seriously, count how many times you hear the word “consumer” during your day. I counted once and it was something like 63 times in one day. It’s on the news, in economic forecasts, and in the papers. You can find it all over the pages of the Wall Street Journal and on just about any news site you can name. It’s everywhere.

The word is ubiquitous, and we don’t even question it. Maybe the situation was summed up beautifully by Howard Gossage who said, “I don’t know who discovered water, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.” We’ve lost perspective and don’t see it anymore; we just accept the notion that we’re here to be consumers.

So, what’s the alternative? What if we start using different words to think of our customers?

What if we think of them as collaborators, co-conspirators, co-creators, or some better descriptor? Let’s treat them like human beings – your friends, family, brothers, sisters, moms, neighbours – not demographic statistics. David Ogilvy famously said, “The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife.” We know this in our bones, let’s act like it.

What kind of value are you creating in people’s lives with your brand and your marketing? Start there.

Maybe, on a fundamental level, we replace consumption with collaboration. This is a facet of the diamond put forward by Michael Porter known as “Shared Value” – the idea that business is in a better position to make the world better than non-profits, NGOs, and even churches because what business does is solve a problem and then scale the solution. If business gets on the track of making things better, it’ll happen much faster than any other way. This doesn’t negate other organizations doing good, far from it. It just might offer a quicker route to making a difference by using market forces.

But a good first step might be to stop thinking of people as a number to achieve an objective. I call it the Golden Rule of Marketing:

“Market unto others the way you’d like to be marketed to.”

We have a responsibility to engage, to inform, to create quality experiences – not run into the room, drop a grenade and scream at people, exhorting them to call or click on us, dammit! It’s exhausting and unrelenting.

There has never been a better time to create work that has a point of view, a message, and leaves the viewer/reader with a positive experience or better informed. We have an opportunity to make people feel good about what we make, what they buy, and why they buy it.

Rather than consume or buy, just maybe they’ll buy into what you’re making and selling. And isn’t that better for everyone?

Feature Image Credit: Jingxi Lau

By David Baldwin

David is an author, film producer, entrepreneur, and one of the most awarded copywriters and creative directors in the ad business today. The founder of Baldwin&, co-founder of the Ponysaurus Brewing Co, co-founder of Take Your Seat, and author of the Amazon bestseller The Belief Economy, David is also the former Chairman of the One Club, and his work has been recognized by Cannes, One Show, D&AD, Clios, Effies, and more. His film work (Art & Copy, The Loving Story) has won two Emmys and a Peabody Award.

Sourced from Brandingmag

By David Gianatasio

“I don’t have much money, but, boy, if I did. I’d buy a big house where we both could live.”

Rising artist AHI performs a passionate cover of Elton John’s “Your Song,” wringing fresh nuances from each familiar line as Ikea Canada launches a revamped brand platform themed “Bring Home to Life.”

This husky, expansive version drives the short film below. It tells the tale of an immigrant family’s arrival in Toronto, opening with a young father’s first glimpse inside their new apartment.

He’s greeted by an odd tableau: In otherwise empty rooms—with no furniture, carpets or even pictures on the walls—about a dozen people wait, frozen in space and time. The action mainly transpires in the father’s imagination as he contemplates a joyous future in this place, surrounded by family and new friends, with items from Ikea completing the scene.

Ikea | Bring Home to Life

Directed OPC’s Gary Freedman, a minute-long edit of the dreamy, cinematic narrative launched during last night’s Emmy Awards.

“We’ve been working on a new Ikea brand platform for more than a year, and this spot is the anchor of that new platform,” says Michelle Spivak, creative director at Rethink, which crafted the campaign. “We looked to tell a story that demonstrated how Ikea helped bring a home to life in a heartwarming way. We loved the idea of that moment when you walk into a new home for the first time, and all you can see is potential.”

The work feels like an extension of recent brand efforts focused on reimagining what home can be. These include introducing a cheeky Ikea collection to ease the transition of returning to the office, and transforming actual Toronto-area houses into showroom displays. “Bring Home to Life” expands on such notions. The push explores many vibrant physical, emotional and social aspects of home, with the retailer’s products and services adding special significance.

In the launch film, “you see the bare space and think of the people who will fill the room,” Spivak says. “The people who will sit at the table. The friends who will gather on the sofa. Ultimately, a house can be filled with a number of items, but it’s the moments and memories we create around those pieces that give them significance. We took that thought and added a bit of magic by having everything frozen until Ikea is added to the home. As our main character arrives to his empty apartment, he’s met with the vision of the housewarming celebration he’ll throw the day his wife and young daughter finally join him.”

That’s a lofty, poetic conceit, well-realized and visually striking, if a tad difficult to fully grasp without repeat viewings. Still, the heartfelt remake of “Your Song” and those intriguing images should enchant ears and eyes, even if the storyline feels elusive at first.

The team shot footage over four days in Parkdale, one of Toronto’s most diverse neighborhoods. “The bodega is real. The bike shop is real. It’s a very authentic place for a newcomer to start their life in Canada,” Spivak says. “The interiors were matched to the exterior of the building but were actually captured in a custom-built set.”

And yes, those actors had to hold their positions, like statues, often for several achy minutes per take.

“As part of the casting, we asked people to freeze in place,” Spivak recalls. “We needed people who could translate emotion without words, but also without moving. That’s when it became apparent how difficult being frozen—while looking natural at the same time—would be. We did as much in camera as possible, with some of our talent propped up on apple boxes and stools we removed in post.”

As for the song choice, “we cast a wide net across genres, but always knowing we wanted the performance to be intimate and personal,” says Johanna Andrén, head of marketing at Ikea Canada. “The lyrics needed to punctuate the story. The voice needed to feel authentic. Our music director found this amazing singer, AHI, a local, Juno-nominated artist with a voice we loved—emotive and warm. He had a young family of his own, and you could feel his tribute to them in his performance.”

“Your Song” mentions home fleetingly, but the vibe’s just right. And you really can’t go wrong with Elton John. Kudos for passing over more obvious choices, like “Our House,” a very very very fine track, to be sure, but too on the nose.

Ultimately, “while there is Ikea furniture in almost every scene in the spot, the aim was to inspire a feeling bigger than the collection of products,” Andrén says. “There is real magic in how every individual home comes to life in its own unique way, and we want to celebrate that idea with this platform for years to come.”

Along with TV, online video and social, the campaign will include traditional billboards and 3-D OOH activations.


Client: IKEA
Agency: Rethink
CCO: Aaron Starkman
CSO: Sean McDonald
ECD: Mike Dubrick
Creative Director: Michelle Spavin
ACD: Brendan Scullion, Max Bingham
Art Director: Max Bingham
Writer: Brendan Scullion
Strategy Director: Jay Fleming
Director of Broadcast Production: Shelby Spigelman/Nadya MacNeil
Broadcast Producer: Mark Pan
Senior Print Producer: Agnes Gilchrist
Print Producer: Jenna Fullerton

TV Production Company: OPC Production
Director: Gary Freedman
Line Producer: Max Brook

Post Production House: Nimiopere
Editor: Graham Chisholm
Executive Producer (Nimiopere): Julie Axell

VFX House: The Vanity
VFX Supervisor: Naveen Srivastava
Colourist: Andrew Axworth
Senior Producer (The Vanity): Katie Methot

Photography Production Company: Fuze Reps
Photographer: Chris Robinson
Director of photography: Zach Koski
Executive Producer (Fuze Reps) : Nicole Gomez
Associate Producer: Alexa Dimitruk

Audio House: Vapor Music
Executive Producer (Audio House): Kailee Nowosad
Creative Director (Audio House): Ted Rosnick
Engineer: Ryan Chalmers

Account Services:
Group Account Director: Kiara Wilson
Account Director: Sheldon Abreu
Account Director: Catherine Blouin-Mainville
Account Supervisor: Melissa Luk
Account Manager: Gabrielle Bergeron

Head of Marketing, IKEA Canada: Johanna Andrén
Director of Brand Marketing, IKEA Canada: Claudia Mayne
Country Marketing Campaign Leader: Jordan Sequeira
Marketing Communications Specialist: Carolyn Thrasher
Marketing Specialist: Noah Keefe

Additional Credits:

Media Agency: Carat Canada
Vice President: Karen Hrstic
Account Director: Tracey Cronin
Media Supervisor: Christine Ma

CRM: Wunderman Thompson
Account Director: Maryam Asad
Account Executive: Hannes Danielsson


By David Gianatasio

Sourced from Muse by Clio

By Jessica Entner

Looking for engagement? Make it meme-able!

There is a very long list of songs and audio clips that have helped create trends, new content, new followers and often help break songs or artists. Sometimes a trend happens using an “oldie but goodie” and introduces a younger audience to an artist from the past, as was the case for the resurgence of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

I’m positive Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood and Ocean Spray all appreciated the opportunity (Mick even responded with his own video). In turn, that viral content also helped launched the career of Doggface (aka Nathan Apodoca) who is now taking on acting roles. The publicity behind this viral phenomenon was a win-win for everyone.

And then there are the missed opportunities. I’m sure you’ve seen the cutest audio bite—”I want to be a marshmallow”—being used in a variety of ways on socials. Who can resist that little voice saying “wobble ’round?” IMHO, this was a missed opportunity for a few key brands. Jet Puffed, Kraft and Nabisco, where you at? It was teed up so perfectly…

There’s also this year’s audio trend which is super relatable, unexpected, and is also my favourite morning mantra.

So what IS going on?

Sound trends are widely popular in the creator culture, but why? What makes a sound go viral? And why do people use it over and over again? The answer, for the most part, is fairly obvious.

Memes = Memorable

The majority of sounds used on TikTok and various social media platforms are comedic in nature and allow most creators to either jump on the bandwagon of a meme, or create their own version of a new meme in order to perpetuate the popularity of a chosen soundtrack. Sound clips, songs, or catchphrases are often dubbed over new content for weeks on end until the next audio trend is discovered.

Why is this important to brands and marketers? If you want an organic post to go viral, then MAKE IT MEME-ABLE!

When you are looking to boost engagement and brand loyalty while appealing to the creator community, you need a solid audio component to propel your post into a viral phenomenon.

Let’s evaluate how certain qualities of audio boost your chances for viral content.

Intentional Sound

Sound has power. Whether it’s a song or a soundbite, using audio as a memorable component to a social post should sound intentional. Brands that created original audio with their posts saw a 52 percent increase in 6-second view rates, compared to content that featured a registered track. With original audio, other creators can also repurpose it in a “meme-able” way, which can create clickback and substantial traction to the brand’s original post.

Sticky Sound

If you want content to stick with the masses, you should consider following these guidelines when creating your audio components:

  • Comedic in nature: Humour is one of the most memorable and emotionally impactful tools anyone can leverage. When using a funny song or sound, not only are you providing enjoyment to the listener, but a comedic sound has a much higher chance of “getting stuck” in someone’s head than any other type of content. People love to replay, and/or share, anything that can make them laugh.
  • Catchphrases or relevant lyrics: Lyrics or phrases in your audio that evoke a sense of familiarity have a higher chance of being repurposed by creators since they have already exhibited popularity and relevance.

Comedy and familiarity are two great qualities to make your audio “stick” and get picked for the next iteration of content consumption and sharing.

Well Placed/Paced Sound

Music that has a great tempo for editing or good pacing has a higher chance of resonating with consumers. If your lyrics are timed to imagery and the sound and visual compliment each other just right, the better the chance your viewers will share, and creators will repurpose.

Recently, I saw that one of my favourite artists, Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run,” was trending on IG with this new challenge of how well your friends know your passions. This is a great example of “well placed” sound and pacing.

Trending Sound

Jumping on mainstream bandwagons is a good way to boost your content. Whether there’s a new dance challenge, photo collage, or creator trend, getting your audio in conjunction with trending content, through aligned hashtags, is a great way to get recycled by social media algorithms.

A good example of a song that created a photo trend was “As it Was,” by Harry Styles. Creators’ interpretations of the lyrics incited a trend of posting photos of themselves over the years, documenting their personal change. The audio had great tempo for editing to the visuals, and the lyrics complimented the imagery well.

Although a lot of trends use mainstream songs, the thread between all of them is that they have been used as memes organically. Pay attention to trends on social media, and listen close to how the audio propels them.

Celebrity Sound

Any celebrity driven content, whether there’s use of a known song or an original, will always get attention. If a celebrity starts the trend, then the chance of it going viral and being recreated is even higher.

A good example of this is Lizzo’s song “About Damn Time.” Not only was her song already catchy and a popular hit, but it ignited a dance challenge that caught fire fast. The lyrics worked perfectly with the imagery, and the dance videos had the comedic and expressive elements we discussed earlier, especially since Lizzo herself got involved. Tacking on celebrity driven trends like these challenges, are a great way for your videos to get exposure, and for you to be a part of the chatter.

Nostalgic Sound

Many songs that have been trending well on TikTok, for instance, have displayed audio components that evoke nostalgia. Nostalgia is such a powerful emotion to tap into for brands, and a great way to ignite and connect different audience demographics. “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush, is a great example of this. Not only is the 1985 hit trending again because of its recent resurgence in Stranger Things, but younger creators are now reposting videos of themselves in different contexts, some relating to the show, and some not at all.

The song’s combo of nostalgia, great tempo for editing, and imagery, made it a perfect recipe for viral content, especially since it was in conjunction with a hit show.

“The chances of going viral can be improved by choosing classic chart-toppers that may find a revival among younger audiences. When a beloved artist is found by Gen-Z audiences, it leads to gatekeeping by longtime fans, as well as counter-gatekeeping by fans who are thrilled to see a younger audience connecting with one of their favourite artists’ music.” (The Conversation).


When creating your content, remember to be intentional with your sound. How is it going to resonate, and why will it? What’s the tangible longevity of this campaign, and is it meme-able?

“Songs with short catchy hooks that are attached to eye-grabbing visual sequences in clips that are sixty, or better yet thirty, seconds maximum are more likely to be picked up on and shared on TikTok.” (The Conversation).

In January 2021, The MIT Technology Review published an article entitled “The future of social networks might be audio.” With the upsurge of audio related content being made, it proves one point over and over again, we all just really want to be HEARD. People, brands, stories, theories, you name it, music helps us be heard.

As we continue to become more globally connected via social media the one thing that always stands true: the language of sound and music is universal.

By Jessica Entner

Jessica Entner is the founder and executive creative producer of JEM Music+Strategy

Sourced from Muse by Clio

By Anton Volovyk

People like to be entertained. But despite the global growth of the advertising market, the level of fun in advertising – that thing which amuses people so much – has steadily declined over the past 20 years. Its new resurgence has been strongly influenced by the disastrous events of the last few months and even years: elections, the pandemic, and wars.

It’s time for more businesses to upgrade their sales efforts and start taking fun more seriously, because, the truth is, if users are having fun, they’re also buying.

Before we get into how this works, it’s worth asking one fundamental question.

What makes content “fun”?

Perhaps it’s all about a sense of pleasure, expression, and fellowship – or is it literally funny? Or all of this at once. Let’s identify “fun” as high-virality content that causes strong emotions (predominantly positive) and great user engagement.

We’ll also discuss the power of humour in a marketing strategy, so let’s figure out how the fun works and why brand communication should be more diverse and entertaining.

1. The anchor of user attention

Technologies are on the rise, and businesses are implementing new approaches to creative advertising, as marketers have just three seconds to convince a user and grab their attention. These seconds before scrolling or skipping are the most valuable, so you should be 100% confident in the catchiness of your message.

Social media and information websites suffer the most from banner blindness because, while advertising makes up part of their income, users tend to skip the ads to get to the content. The average click-through rate for display ads is around 0.46%. But fun has become a unique feature that makes an ad noticeable and memorable.

According to research by HubSpot, 35% of Americans surveyed in 2021 remembered an ad because it contained elements of fun. And if you remember the Super Bowl, it’s more likely because of its creative and fun ads or the Halftime Show, and not because of the champion teams. This year, humour made a big comeback in Super Bowl LVI, like in the BMW commercial starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek as ancient gods retiring from Mount Olympus to Palm Springs.

Global brands and even small, young, and creatively savvy companies have learned to sell emotions and make it a part of their strategy. In recent years, fun has become one of these key emotions.

2. The level of engagement

Humour is the second most popular type of content that people share on social media, and its appeal is stable. Savvy marketers are aware of this and often slip a hint of fun into advertisements: contests, short videos, games, pranks, etc.

Humour doesn’t just overtake the old-school, rational, message-based ad formats. It also surpasses other methods for selling emotions methods, such as “televisual senses” in food advertising.

The dating app Schmooze allows users to “swipe memes, not people”, matching each other based on their sense of humour. This meme-centric approach has gained over 300,000 users since it was launched on a college campus in 2020.

People share content for various reasons: to communicate or be helpful, to raise their self-esteem or reputation, etc. However, according to psychological theory, novelty-seeking is another solid digital drug. Anything that seems new or fills in information gaps can trigger dopamine release.

Humour has long been used as a tool of communication and public diplomacy – even during wars. And still, humour is at the top of social media content because it generates virality.

The Reddit experiment “Place” (2017) caused an epic war of pixels on a collaborative digital art canvas, where users from all over the world could place a pixel every five minutes. It went viral in just 72 hours and involved more than 200,000 participants. The reasons are – novelty, fun, and unpredictability.

Is synthetically generated content the new fun?

Content consumption is on the rise. Emerging technologies and their applications, such as NFT, ML mechanics, and AR/VR tools create stronger emotional ties with users through new types of content. Synthetic media creation has become yet another endless source of enjoyment.

Try not to overcook fries in the virtual IKEA kitchen, swap your face into the trailer of an upcoming movie, or join Justin Bieber for an immersive live show in the metaverse. Campaigns using synthetic media and immersive ads can take an integrated approach and facilitate an emotional response from viewers, because people enjoy humorous images and sharing unusual content.

In 2018, McDonald’s designed an AR effect to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac. The next year, the company took its business to the next level by purchasing an artificial intelligence marketing startup for over $300 million, one of its most significant acquisitions to date.

3. The tool for social influence

Among the obvious reasons for implementing fun into your advertising campaigns, there is one more that many creatives don’t usually take into account. Fun is a powerful tool for influencing public opinion that can be used to launch social campaigns. Humour allows you to pack a strong message into a simple shape that is easily understandable to many.

The Silicon Valley FoodTech unicorn JUST Egg knows how this works. To draw attention to the problem of global warming during Earth Month, the eco-friendly brand JUST Egg elegantly trolled American legislators on their own territory in Washington. JUST Egg has captured a 98% market share in egg substitutes in the US, which can be considered a huge product influencer.

During the last two months, social media has also added another ingredient, bringing immediacy into strategic communication as a new kind of fun. Joining the war against Russian propaganda, the Ukrainian government’s Twitter account uses humour as a tool of information warfare.

Whether you own a brand of corn flakes or represent a major government organization, implementing and packing fun into your creative commercial is another way to cultivate and engage a community.

There’s no need to turn every business marketing strategy into a humour-centric one, especially if the entertainment industry is not related to your project. However, in general, brand communication and marketing are moving toward giving emotions and a sense of unity. The easier it is to make your customers laugh, the more gladly they will interact with your product.

Feature Image Credit: Daniel Salcius

By Anton Volovyk

Anton Volovyk holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and a Master in Finance degree from IE Business School. Anton is an expert in app-monetization, business development, and leadership. Before Reface, he worked at the Boston Consulting Group, a global strategy consulting company working with clients across consumer, tech, and media. Prior to BCG, Anton worked in investment banking in the M&A department and Private Equity as a tech and consumer investor.

Sourced from Brandingmag