Tagged: youtube

Pharrell & The Republic Of Content

Back when I first started attending search conferences you would often hear people saying “content is king” or some variation of the same phrase: on that I remember repeating quite a lot was “conversation is king, content’s just something to talk about”.

However it struck me recently that the metaphor of a king was rather misguided as it suggests that one single piece of content will rule all others. Or, in other words, that it’s possible for a brand to create one piece of content and then sit back and count the winnings. Instead, increasingly, it seems obvious to me that we actually live in a republic of content where power and influence is available to just about anyone.

So, on Facebook you might end up looking at photos of a friend’s new child, taking a Buzzfeed quiz to decided where you should live or read  Guardian article about how the NSA are using social networks to monitor what people are doing. And, to use 2014′s buzz-phrase of choice, when all of this content is ‘native’ it really doesn’t matter whether it’s branded or not, it only matters whether someone is doing something that stops them interacting with your brand.

Ben Thompson summed this up brilliantly a while back:

attention is a zero sum game; every minute spent in Snapchat or LINE or WhatsApp is a minute not spent in Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

To which we could add ‘or giving you an opportunity to sell to them’.

This was brought home to me again today when I saw the 24 hour video that has been created for Pharrell Williams’ track Happy. It is essentially made up of over 300 individual videos, each of them set in Los Angeles and each of them essentially mimicking the original video, which saw  and they feature Pharrell and lots of other people dancing and singing on a street, with a cast of hundreds that includes ballroom dancers, skateboarders, Magic Johnson, Steve Carrell, Jamie Foxx & Odd Future. The ‘standard’ video is essentially a Best Of for the 24 hour version.


And that’s basically it.

Pointing out that Noel Gallagher is wrong about something isn’t exactly an Olympic sport but, when he said that ‘no-one watches videos any-more‘ he rather missed the point. People rarely watch shit videos anymore.

But videos like Pharrell’s Happy marathon, or Arcade Fire’s mash-up of video and Google Maps, the Beastie Boys’ comedy epicBob Dylan’s multi-channel karaoke or Danger Mouse’s visual extravaganza can actually command even more attention that ever.

It might seem crazy that anyone would make a 24-hour video for a song that lasts a fraction of that time but the film, which is what it really is, is absolutely delightful. It’s a great track for a start*; charming, full of life and innocent.

And the videos, each of which feature little snapshots of people enjoying themselves, is much the same, though I do wish they’d flown out the Northern Soul girl for it**. In many ways it reminds me of the movies Swingers & In Search Of A Midnight Kiss in that, it is, essentially, a love letter to LA.


When someone can spend a whole day watching almost endless variations on a 4-minute pop video, what exactly are you going to do? Because the king is dead, vive la République!

*So’s the movie it’s taken from; don’t let the fact that it’s supposedly for kids put you off.
**Maybe they did, did you really think I’d watched the whole thing?
*** Here’s the whole 24 hours.


Trucking Great Advertising

We all know that B2B advertising is boring, and almost never creative, don’t we? It seems that no-one told Volvo Trucks*.

You’ve probably already seen their recent piece of content which shows Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two moving lorries. It’s at 21 million views and counting. But what you may not know is that this is just the latest in a series of great pieces of content, each of which simply and clearly demonstrates a product benefit.

They started with a ballerina, took in a hamster and some bulls (no bullshit), put their President on the line and were willing to risk everything to get ahead.

Now views aren’t everything, and they haven’t all reached Van Damme levels, but most of them have done a great job at turning entertaining (and informative) content into large-scale audiences. As phrases like content marketing and native advertising gain traction it’s great that Volvo can serve as a positive case study, as opposed to the recent efforts by Guinness.

*Volvo are a client of Mindshare


Because You Favourited…

Oh dear.

Whenever I feel like I need to post something, and crave inspiration (I really wish I organically knew about as much cool/beautiful/interesting stuff as Chungaiz), I head to YouTube. Maybe I need to find a new muse…


Can you see that? Middle left? They suggested this because I had, unsurprisingly, favourited this.

You can stick your wisdom of crowds, there’s still a lot of work to do on social recommendation.


Redefining Viral: B2B Social Marketing

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be invited to an event organised by Dell & Microsoft to discuss whether social marketing is relevant for B2B. There were some fascinating presentations (available here & here) as well as some lively discussions: all focussed on the challenge of making social marketing relevant when talking to niche audiences, often made up of high-level execs who, the argument goes, ‘don’t do Twitter & Facebook”.

During the course of the day I was reminded of a discussion I had in a previous role with the marketing team of a major B2B company who, so they told us, wanted to ‘do a viral’. When we pressed them they said that they wanted to create funny videos which would amass millions of views. Considering the fact that their products cost millions of dollars I always felt that getting the man on the street to chuckle at a video might not be the best use of their marketing budget, and I still feel the same.

However, if we challenge the conventional definition of viral in modern marketing (something, usually a video, that is seen by loads of people) then actually we can start to see how a B2B company might use such techniques.

First, what do we mean by viral? At it’s most basic level it refers to something that is passed from one person to another. However there is nothing that says it has to be passed along by millions of people. If your target audience is made up of a few hundred decision makers worldwide, then if a piece of content is passed from a CFO to a CTO, you’ve done your job.

And who says that piece of content has to be a video? In today’s Guardian there is a post about a piece of infographics developed by Japanese agency Information Architects, showing the 140 most influential users of Twitter in a format that resembles maps of how the universe was created.

By packaging data in an interesting and attractive way, they’ve managed to make a PDF go viral within the tech sphere. And in a similar manner, Socialnomics have managed to make what is, essentially a Powerpoint/Keynote presentation, a YouTube smash.

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Both of these should challenge what we think of as viral marketing. And, coupled with a different view of what going viral actually means, we can start to see how social marketing can be just as relevant for B2B audiences as it is for B2C. And that’s an idea that truly deserves to go viral.


The Death Of The Remote Control Syndrome

If you work in digital, and in particular in ‘social media’, you’re often challenged with the idea that somehow this world is just for the young, the tech savvy, and is essentially a niche that isn’t of interest to major brands. Having just spoken at an IAB event on the subject of how you can use social to reach a mainstream audience, it’s worth looking at this and showing exactly how far from the truth it is.

Let’s start with the stats. Facebook today announced that it has 400 million active users every month. YouTube serves 1 billion impressions every day. These numbers alone should silence even the most vocal doubters. After all, you show me anywhere, outside of TV or radio in China or India, where you can reach this many consumers. And they’re not just kids either. Facebook’s fastest growing audience in the US is women over the age of 55.

The reasons for this growth, and the way that this growth has particularly been amongst older demographics, are too numerous to go into here. But there’s one that’s worth mentioning, and that’s the rise of social gaming.

Just as the Wii has done offline, these games, often devoid of the guns or violence that so often pervade ‘serious games’, can appeal to a much wider market. And as well as driving the older audience’s usage of social, it’s also making them more accustomed to spending real money for virtual goods, but that’s a topic for another post.

Because what I really want to talk about is how advances in technology are only likely to continue to push social, and all forms of digital, to an audience that is both older & more mainstream than the ones we have all become used to. This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but really it’s not.

For years there was a cliché of older people (i.e. just about anyone over 40) being left confused and feeling excluded by technological advances. How often have parents had to get their children to help them use the video control, or to programme the TV, or to use a computer? But that’s all changing.

Last year there were, according to stats I heard from Google yesterday, 240 million web enabled phones sold around the world. In contrast, only 200 million desktop computers were shippped. And more and more of these phones are touch-screen devices, following in the iPhone’s wake, which make using the web an entirely intuitive process.

I’ll give you an example: last year my Mum was bought an iPod touch for Christmas. A couple of months ago I lent her my Blackberry to check her email, but she couldn’t get it to work. The reason? She was trying to scroll by touching the screen.

Apple had taken away the barrier between her and mobile web use, and she didn’t like it when that barrier was rebuilt. The competitive pricing for the iPad is only likely to build on this trend.

But it’s not just phones or tablets though.

The Nintendo Wii has brought gaming to a whole new audience, not just because the games tend to be more family friendly, but also because the interface is so easy to use. No more clicking multiple keys, or being glued to a joy-stick (surely these should be renamed as joyless sticks now?)  Suddenly games were fun and easy to play for people other than young men.

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At the end of this year Microsoft plans to release Project Natal, which is essentially a Wii on steroids (feel free to insert your own Ben Johnson jokes in the comments): it removes the need for a controller altogether, and responds to your body movements, and your voice.

Want to play a game? Just tell it so and then start waving your arms around. Want to watch a movie? Just tell it so and then flip your way through the catalogue.

All of a sudden there are no barriers between the user and the technology, meaning it will be as simple and intuitive for a 61 year old to interact with digital content, as for a 16 year old. Whereas previous advances have put barriers up between older generations & technology, now they’re pulling them down.

And so the intersection of social activity, touch & voice activated technology, and people of all ages accustomed to paying for virtual goods (whether that be seed on Farmville, or Jackie Lawson cards), the video control syndrome will be dead, and the mainstream will be media that’s social in every way.

Farmville image by taberandrew, remote control by oskay, header image by schnaars, all on flickr.


YouTube Follows Facebook, Goes Feather Lite

Working in the UK, US, or anywhere in the ‘developed’ world, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the sort of things that we often take for granted.

I’m not talking about things such as clean water, access to healthcare or any of the things that billions of people are denied, but about quick & reliable internet connections. But with all the talk of how the web is taking over the world, you might be forgiven for thinking that everyone has the sort of broadband that we have grown so accustomed to.

The launch by YouTube of Feather, a system designed, in their own words, to:

serve YouTube video watch pages with the lowest latency possible…by severely limiting the features available to the viewer and making use of advanced web techniques for reducing the total amount of bytes downloaded by the browser.

shows that Google are all too aware that in places like India, China and large parts of Africa, the web is still stuck in a 90s dial-up nightmare (slide 21).

They’re not alone either; last year Facebook launched Facebook Lite. Many saw this as an attempt to ‘do a Twitter’, but in fact it was nothing of the sort. It was actually an update designed to allow those who live in parts of the world where broadband penetration is miniscule, to use the site, which in its full form, can demand massive bandwidth.

Whilst there might be 1.5 billion people online, many of those live in areas that simply don’t have the sort of infrastructure to handle large files, or websites, such as YouTube & Facebook, which really require broadband to work in their full format.

And whilst many of those areas are starting to move to broadband, it may take some time, and in the meantime many areas will be stuck with dial-up, or rely on mobile access (which also struggles to properly replicate the sort of functionality that broadband powered website possess), Facebook & Google don’t want to wait.

They need to get in and build an audience base now if they hope to achieve the same sort of dominance that they have in the high-speed world and making their services as lite as a feather is the perfect way to do so.

Feather photo by tibchris on flickr.


This Is Why Sir Tim Invented Teh Webz

At the end of last week Sir Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the world wide web, finally got with the cool kids (well, the vaguely hip middle class intelligentsia) and joined Twitter.

And since then I’ve seen two things that would make him proud that he did (invent the web that is, obviously he shouldn’t be proud that he’s joined Twitter and is being followed by over 12,000 people already but only following 31 in return, like some bald, white male version of Oprah).

First is the marvelous video you can see below. A stop-motion tribute to that classic 60s anthem, Right Said Fred, from which the greatest 2/3 bald gay trio of the 90s took their name. Doesn’t it make you proud to be alive?

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Slightly less impressive, but almost as wonderful, is this little YouTube Easter Egg: go to any YouTube video and replace the word ‘watch’ in the URL with ‘warp.swf’. When you do, you’re presented with a graphical representation of where that video sits in the YouTube universe, allowing you to see how it relates to other videos, and from there on to videos that they relate to.

You kind of have to play around with it to see what I mean, though there are a couple of screen-grabs that might help: the one above is the original Lego video and its immediate neighbours, the one below shows what I’d got to after browsing for a few seconds – somehow I’d ended up on a video showing me how to make the sounds for the letters V & W. A sneaky branding exercise by a german car manufacturer perhaps?


The Viral Con: Ray Ban, Quiksilver, Kobe & Yossi

One of the best things I saw at Stream 09 was a video by Yossi Vardi, the Israeli tech-legend who co-hosts the event with WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell. It’s a spoof of the excellent Kobe Bryant Nike viral and got a big laugh when he showed it on the last night.

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The Kobe video has racked up a few million views so far, with many of them certainly coming as a result of people watching the video more than once, as they try to work out whether it’s been doctored or not. What’s interesting about the video, other than trying to work out whether he really has just jumped over a car, is that it was another example of a type of video that has become more & more popular.

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The video above was an ad that Levis drove viral, showing people supposedly leaping into pairs of jeans. Whilst it’s gained a lot of acclaim, I personally feel that it’s a rather weak imitation of the Ray Ban Never Hide video, which gained huge exposure due to the fact that it seems to show a guy catching sunglasses on his face that are thrown at him as he drives along in a car. What I particularly love about Never Hide is that although there is no sign of any branding, the final shots show the back window of the car with the words ‘never hide’ written on it in dirt. A search for ‘never hide’ at the time the video was released, led you to Ray Ban’s site. Genius.

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Of course these sort of viral cons don’t just have to show people catching things, or jumping into or over them. The people at Quiksilver caused a wave of attention when they released a video which looked like people surfing on a river in a major city, on waves caused by dropping dynamite into the river.

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Despite the fact that all of these videos appear to be manipulated in some way or another, you can create even more impact with something that people don’t believe, but which is actually true. The TFL Do The Test video I worked on whilst at Altogether generated a lot of views because people rewound the video, as they didn’t believe that the two pieces of film shown were one & the same. They were, and that’s probably why it even made it onto network TV in the US. Who said you need to trick the public to cause a stir?

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Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster Stronger

So yesterday, as I continue to try to nail down the songs of the decade, I carried out a poll at work to try to find just that. You can see the resulting list* here (if you’re on Spotify) which includes two songs by Daft Punk, including Harder Better Faster Stronger. Ignoring the fact that personally I think Daft Punk say a lot more about the 90s than the past 10 years, whilst we were doing this one of the guys at work showed me the video below. I’m probably about the last person in the connected world to see it, what with the 33 million odd views it’s racked up on YouTube.

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In case you’re one of the four people left who hasn’t seen it or can’t be bothered to watch the video, it’s basically someone ‘dancing’ with their hands, on which they have written about 10 or so words which they then use to ‘sing along’ to the song with, by opening and closing their hands. Sounds ridiculous, in fact is ridiculous, but it’s also very charming. Hence the 33 million views.

I was going to compare the 33 million views for Daft Hands (I know, clever eh?) to the views for the official video for Harder Better Faster Stronger by Daft Punk and then make some oh so clever comment about how this shows how consumers are taking over the world, blah, blah cluetrain, blah. But, as the picture at the top of the post shows, I can’t. Because I’m not allowed to watch the original version of the song.

And people wonder why these guys can’t make any money? Jesus wept.

Here, instead, is the excellent Stronger by Kanye West which, of course, samples the Daft Punk track and which I can watch on YouTube and which, in my opinion, says a lot more about the noughties than Daft Punk themselves.

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*The Spotify list is in reverse order, so Beyonce & Daft Punk’s One More Time were join winners. I know!


Why’s nicholifavs Pushing A Spammy Affiliate?

Browsing through Twitter earlier I came across the rather splendid Apple Store Kid, otherwise known as Nicholi White or nicholifavs. It seems that he wanders into the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York and lip syncs to hip hop & R&B tracks, all the while looking pretty cool and then uploads them to YouTube: karaoke 2.0 if you will.

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His version of Black Eyed Peas’ Boom Boom Pow has racked up more than 160,000 views since being uploaded in July whilst a more recent video is already through the 100,000 mark in less than 1 week. If I had to put money on it I’d say that he’s probably likely to keep piling on the views if he keeps on at this rate and, with the number of videos he produces, is likely to be one of the biggest memes since the days of Num Numa (who he even references in one of the videos in a nice little post-modern touch).

I was planning to just do a post pointing to these two videos until I took a bit of time to look around his YouTube profile. You see, there’s a couple of things that come to light when you spend some time looking around the profile that are a little strange.

First is the fact that several of the videos are simply White telling people to f*ck off or to stop calling him an asshole: I assume that he’s referring to commenters on his videos – the fact that he’s getting abused just for posting the videos is incredibly depressing. In one of the most recent videos he says that he’s just appeared on Good Morning America and is due to go on Ellen. Whilst his profile says that he’s 19, I can’t believe he’s even old enough to drive and as such I just hope that further spotlight doesn’t turn his new found fame into something he can’t handle.

He also appears to have hooked up with some sort of spammy YouTube snake-oil salesman. In this video he links to this rather dubious site which promises you hundreds of dollars in revenue when you buy YouTube Cash Buster, his guide to making cash off of YouTube. I can only assume that his secrets are something along the lines of ‘add affiliate links from karaoke videos to iTunes’. Whatever they are, I hope that Nicholas doesn’t end up pissing off the thousands of people who have obviously found his videos by linking to such spammy shite.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy another of Nicholi’s videos and hope that he can continue to enjoy making them as much as he obviously has done up till now: personally I think the backing dancer is the one who’s really destined for fame.

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Hat tip to Uba Kontrovasie.

Apple store image by Mike Roberts NYC on flickr