Who is the Target Lady?

Maria Bamford helped turn our anxiety about the holiday rush into a playfully self-aware celebration of the insanity we call Black Friday.

Target’s Black Friday campaign staring Maria Bamford spawned loads of “word of mouth,” and captured AdAge’s attention by ranking #2 on the AdAge Viral Chart with more than 1.5 million views in a week. Sure that’s still far below my definition of “viral video” (I’m thinking the new definition is 4 million views in a few days). But the campaign, by Portland, Oregon agency Wieden & Kennedy, clearly has become more than a 2010 footnote. Here’s Target Lady’s highlight reel, which culminates in the fantastic shot of her running through target wearing a parachute to slow her down.

Naturally Steve Hall (AdRants) hate’s it, but TV Critic Roger Catlin gave it a “an hail Target ad lady Maria” review. AgencySpy was most impressed with the Rocky IV tune. But the real surprise, to me, was when my wife said: “wait- look at this…everyone’s raving about it on Facebook.” According to ClickZ, some sponsored ads fueled that Facebook fire.

Click here to see YouTube’s Target collection, ranked by most-viewed.

Some of these spots are good enough to stop you from fast forwarding TiVo. Maria Bamford has a wonderfully crazy and self-deprecating style that makes even ME feel sane. She’s not new to Target — check out her subtle “Target” reference in this video from years ago (below). She’s funny in standup (effinfunny.com), but translates even better to web video and was a perfect fit for this wonderfully insane Target campaign.

I hope to see her back, since I think she’ll appeal to Target’s target customer. We’ll still need our “cool” target ads, but this is distinctive and fun, and a refreshing departure from me-two department store ads (wow we’ve got deals… zzzzz). I could honestly see the Target Lady pulling a mini Old Spice video-reply campaign with personalized videos… the mad rush for holidays is far from over, but there’s not likely time for a new campaign. Hey Wieden & Kennedy- if she’s answering questions I’d like to know how many cups of coffee she drinks a day and how many hours of sleep she gets. I’d also savour, like fine wine, some behind-the-scenes outtakes from the commercial shoot.

If you like Target Lady, write WK agency (contact information) or be sure to write Maria’s mom. Mothers need affirmation sometimes, and maybe she’ll let Maria out of the attic to reward her. Or heck, pick up a piece of no-soap made by her dad.

How & Why Madison Avenue Is Killing YouTube (and what it can do)

Call it a subtle scent at this week’s Ad:Tech in NYC… Lots of discussion of online-video, even if not in proportion to online-video’s growing importance to the online-marketing mix. More interesting, however, is that most conversations didn’t use the two words: “you” and “tube.” People talked about contextual targeting, video-advertising networks, and even facial recognition.

Even though every attendee received a free Fast Company that featured YouTube influencers, the words “You” and “Tube” weren’t muttered except in disgust. Even Google’s mainstream booth didn’t showcase YouTube. WTF?

Why? How was it that people would only discuss YouTube when I brought it up? And why was all the feedback negative:

  • They’re not selling inventory well. They’re not even making it easy for us to buy it.
  • They don’t understand the role of the agency because they’re used to getting money through electronic bids.
  • YouTube sees agencies as unimportant middlemen between them and THEIR customers
  • If you don’t have $40 million, they won’t customize things for you.

The “Madison YouTube Snub” wasn’t about the proximity of ads to “consumer generated content,” or about metrics or targeting. It was simply that agency buyers (as haughty as I know they can be) aren’t being treated well.

What YouTube is missing is the “Great Irrationality of Marketing Spending,” something I’ve grown to understand even if I disdain. I’ve seen it closely from all three perspectives: as a content creator, a buyer, and an intermediary. While we direct-response oriented marketers (the ones who track A/B campaigns on Google OCD style) are about results, the vast majority of advertising spending is not rational or performance driven. There. I said it. Try to refute that fact.

I’m not suggesting that media buyers are behaving recklessly or spending without consideration of their client’s money. But I do know that when confronted with a new medium with unclear metrics, they buy based on a) what’s easy, b) what they understand, and c) relationships.

I know how devalued my 4-6 million monthly views on YouTube are, and how the cost-per-view is horrifically low. So this article is a bit biased. But I also know I can’t solve that myself… it’s going to take some improvements in San Bruno. I would typically provide this advise without public fanfare as “not to bite the hand that feeds me.” I wouldn’t have an audience without YouTube. But I owe it to myself and fellow creators to help YouTube solve its biggest problem: poor monetization of traffic.

So here are 7  tips for YouTube to win back the hearts and dollars of Madison Avenue.

  1. Be Nice. You don’t have to contort your business model to fit advertisers, but at least show them love.
  2. Know Your Customer. It’s only partially true that the big brands are your customer, Google. Don’t negate the influence of the agencies on how that spending is partitioned. Even the smartest and well-intentioned marketers defer to media buyers. Marketer have two years to chase ROI and can’t possibly get into the weeds of one medium — much less one property.
  3. Teach Google sales people about YouTube. They simply don’t understand how to sell display advertising, much less video. It’s really quite sad.
  4. Educate. As market leader, it’s Google’s responsibility to set metrics, validate the medium, and educate buyers AND key influencers. Don’t expect logic to prevail, or it will be 2012 and Madison will have jacked up competitors. If I don’t see some ROI studies in 2011 published by YouTube and Forrester, ComScore, TubeMogul, Jupiter, eMarketer, or whoever… I’m going to show up to San Bruno with poop on a stick.
  5. Create an East Coast sales office for YouTube. Do it now. YouTube is floundering in silly pods, and there’s not enough pretty faces greasing agency palms. I resent it too, but it’s how dollars flow.
  6. Decentralize. Agencies do a lot of stupid things, but they know the importance of small. Google is too layered to move in the agile way that’s required of new media, and it’s killing itself.
  7. Get Creative. You don’t need to accept ad units that piss of your viewers, which is a more important stakeholder than advertisers. But explore new options, partner with greater trust, and don’t expect video to be monetized with the simple standards of your cash cow (paid search).

Any other tips? Or are you just gonna hope it takes care of itself?

The BiPolar Agency

Corporate work can be slow and boring, so agencies are refreshingly energetic by contrast. Fast… sometimes too fast but that’s better than sitting still, right?

I just read an interesting piece about the “creative exodus” in adland. It actually contradicted my past 3 days, where I realized that three online-video enthusiasts had moved into three companies (an agency, a mobile company and an agency). Until recently they were brands by themselves… publishers, consultants, studios, etc.

Did they see something I’m missing? Each said they received “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” but also probably gave away some level of freedom and diversity… hopefully none will be the “online video monkey” as the “online monkeys” of the early 2000. Those guys had P&L responsibility for a web shop of specialists who would have rather work at a digital agency. And they held in the same regard that an account executive holds the traffic coordinator… whatshername.

So this article by Matthew Creamer was well timed, and I found this part most fascinating:

“I recently had separate chats with two ad guys in their 20s who have good strategic jobs that keep them close to the work at growing digitally-focused shops with full client lists and strong case studies. These are smart, ambitious thinkers with the right understanding of where the business needs to go. Each has already flirted with the idea of taking important roles at big agencies and the future will probably be relatively kind to them, but instead of focusing on that, they echo the same complaints associated with these senior folks: the limits of client-service models, difficulty to find the time or buy-in for innovation. Neither can really imagine long careers in this or any other client-service business — not when there are Facebooks to be built. Platform and product-development is where it’s at in their minds, the kind of work that allows you to make money while asleep. And advertising will pay the bills until the right idea — and the right deal with the right backer — comes along.”

Interesting. Not sure I’d hold my breath for the next facebook, but who isn’t intrigued with the idea of scaling something that’s big… that’s an annuity stream. Something that requires time and effort, but eventually can be a source of recurring monthly revenue. Oh I’m not talking Amway. I’m talking about “4-hour workweek” (a book well worth reading with a grain of salt).

I’ve made it my mission to never get too comfortable on the client or agency side. Climbing a ladder in a corporation has always struck me as fun as working at the post office (would you like extra stamps with that? how about a PO box? how about tracking and some frenchfries).

For those of you facing corporate versus agency gigs I can tell you that they vary greatly… the agencies are especially bi-polar. On one hand you’re surrounded by a bunch of creative and intelligent people, so it’s energetic, dynamic and keeps you growing. On the other hand, you’re the client’s bitch, you’ll work long unpredictable hours, and deal with managers that may not know how to (or want) to manage.

To demonstrate the bi-polar moment, let me share my “high” and “low.”

Low: As a recent college graduate, I took an unpaid internship at Earle Palmer Brown (he’s one dude), who I guess got bought by Arnold and doesn’t exist anymore. It was depressing as hell and I worked in “traffic” (the idiot who moves shit from one department to another). At happy hours after work, people would encourage me to pursue another impression… and indeed it would be years before I took anything resembling an agency role. Parenthetically I had no business working on creative, but it didn’t stop me from making storyboards and videos for the Arby’s account that had just been secured. The creative director, a big ass Australian named John Doig, would dash past me like I was a homeless guy asking for change.

High: Working with Frontier Media Group, bought by Ikon, which was bought by Qwest. We were creating digital marketing, and educating product directors that really didn’t know how to market. So I’d immerse myself on a topic (Seth Godin’s latest book) and proclaim myself an expert. I had the MBA in marketing and a passion for digital so people would generally write big checks. That was so much fun I dreamed about it last night… only in the dream it wasn’t an agency it was CIA. Covert Ops. And I had a kickass boat that doubled as a plane. Didn’t know how to slow it down, so I just focused on turning at the right moments. I somehow avoided crashing it, and finally learned to maneuver it pretty well.

Except I never did figure out how to slow it down.

AdAge Celebrates YouTube Sellouts

AdAge called out the biggest YouTube sellouts— those known for sponsored videos for top brands. Naturally my headline would have read “YouTube’s Most Prolific Sponsored Artists” had I been included in the list. For those of you whose nipples don’t get pointy when you hear words like “advertising, marketing, Mad Men, spot, creative brief, storyboards, USP, reach, frequency and single-minded proposition,” AdAge is kinda the Forbes for advertising junkies. It’s like Men’s Health except some straight people read it.

shaycarl t-shirt

The actual article is titled “Meet YouTube’s Most In-Demand Brand Stars,” and it’s a nice representation of the booming webstar, perhaps the central point of “Beyond Viral,” an amazing new book by Wiley & Sons coming out Sept. 21. Despite some conspicuous misses and a few odd inclusions, the article points to some interesting nuggets like MysteryGuitarMan (MGM) preference for a blank creative brief… his videos have never been better, and each one squashes my own confidence more aggressively than the next.

I would have also liked to read a “who’s who” of the companies that link stars with brands (Hitviews, Mekanism, PlaceVine, Howcast, YouTube). That’s something you don’t see covered well, and it’d be fascinating to read about the total market for sponsored videos and the dominant players.

TubeMogul helped compile this list, and you can see the webstar’s vital signs on the TubeMogul marketplace. The stats seem to be out of synch with YouTube’s counter and other sites (TubeMogul has me at 145 million, while YouTube alone counts 161 million…. so my views on Yahoo Video and other sites must be negative 16 million). It could be that once I “private” a video (like those I’ve buried because I no longer like them), I lose Tubemogul credit for them.

Before I could go to bed sulking for being overlooked by AdAge and Tubemogul, I discovered author Irina Slutsky sent me a note about this a week or so. And yeah I missed it. Just like the two e-mail offers to appear on AnnoyingOrange, one of the hottest web series by DaneBoe.

ADHD online-video creator and marketer seeks minimum-wage e-mail account manager from India.

These peeps don’t seem to read my blog, but I consider more than a few of them as friends… Trippy (he’s been in my kids’ bed), Buckley (he spanked me), Penna (wrote the Nalts theme and couldn’t get into bars at early YouTube gathersings), and Shay (he was new, we collabed, then he became twice as big as me overnight… and also got a lot more viewers). Others are more like acquaintances like Justine (who keeps a safe distance, but I made her what she is) and Smosh. Speaking of Smosh, Ian and Anthony get props for the recent Butterfinger Snackers video (“Selling Out”) that spoofed the criticism they’ve taken lately for doing a few too many sponsored videos. Heh. I did a Butterfinger video in 2006, a year before I goofed on this whole sponsored-video space with this video, which mentions Smosh. I’m guessing the Smosh kids never saw this diddy…

It’s me 3 years ago mimicking the emergence YouTube “sell outs” and the personalities who might desperately broker brand/webstar love connections... you know, the entities connecting brands and web stars. Most YouTube webstars know more about engaging an audience than turning a brand strategy into effective and persuasive messaging… so they need help. There are some exception- like Rhett and Link, who could just as well be their own boutique creative agency, as reflected in the quality of their advertainment and the highly unusual ratio of branded to non-sponsored views. I almost like their sponsored videos better than their brand-deficient ones because like a pro athlete they make it look easy.

And, lest I miss mentioning my book (Beyond Viral) in a single post, you’ll find mention of almost all of these cats inside the low-cost pages… including featured sections on Rhett & Link, Charles Trippy, Shay Butler and others.

Hey what ever happened to Buckley? I think he ignored me like Caitlin Hill (thehill88) and iJustine. Maybe Buckley needs an e-mail intern… I wonder if there are any Indians with the name Mason?

Top Viral-Video Advertisements of All Time

Topping OldSpice and Evian, the most-viewed online-video advertiser is Blendtec, according to “The Top 10 Viral Ads of All Time,” by AdAge (AdvertisingAge) and VisibleMeasures.

Seriously we’re not tired of it.

Want to guarantee your video goes viral? Um, yeah, about that...

Here’s the page on YouTube where you can sort videos and channels by most-viewed , most-liked, most-subscribed by day, week, month, all time. Find me a few advertisements on here and I’ll give you a piece of candy.

I think I get the first copy of my book, Beyond Viral, in a week or less. The central premise is that it’s time for advertisers to stop pinning all their hopes on going viral. Leverage popular creators and channels. When the web was new we all scrambled to create the ultimate website for our target audience… now we’re back to advertising and public relations.

With online video we can do a “Hail Mary” and maybe land on AdAge’s chart. Or we could sponsor a webstar and guaranteee a sizable audience without luck or paying for views.

But they’re amateurs! They may say something bad. Yeah, no. You sponsor them and you get to review their videos before they’re live… and still I literally got a text yesterday from an agency friend who wondered who might produce a viral video for her.

I wonder if archaic advertisers and marketers will blend? I mean I wouldn’t press the button, but if you could build a big enough blender… MAN that would go viral.

Brands Can Tinker With Twitter: So Let’s Tinker With 7/8/9 Gathering…

As I sail into full-time consulting around social media (with video being the obvious focus, given its visceral nature), I can’t help but also hear brands desperate for a Twitter strategy. My former colleague, Marc Monseau, who manages the Johnson & Johnson blog, made headlines for using Twitter to fix a Motrin ad (see AdAge story if you’re registered or learn more here).

Today I learned via my beloved AdAge 3-minute video report about Tinker, which orients information around brands so if you’re Yoplait you could have a live section where people’s tweets are syndicated on your site (sanatized from obscenities and competitors). Okay- maybe there’s not a surging demand for a real-time yogurt discussion, but still worth a glance…

This is especially useful for events because Twitter is oriented around people and not events… so unless everyone uses #BoringDigitalConference on their tweets, it can be hard to surf the microblogs from attendees…. so….


Here’s a Tinker event I’ve created to help facilitate the discussions around the large YouTube gathering in NYC, culminating on the weekend after 7/8/09 (it’s dubbed Gathering789 and other terms). Now various tweets can be connected to similar tweets (even with #tag variations), and the dates can easily be found. Endless possibilities here, and it still links to the 789 website that has videos and blog posts.

I tried a Tinker search for my former brand, Propecia, and it was interesting. Sure you can do a real-time Twitter search at Twitter (which is how I kept informed about the buzz of my Merck departure), but this can help organize and syndicate the brand-specific mentions/events in a more organized format.

The Anti-Virus to Online Video

I’m still procrastinating my AdAge article for online-video, but the process awakened me to something vital about online video. You see, when I was featured for the first time on YouTube it was mocking a “viral video genius.” It was meant to be a joke. Viral video was not an art form, and remains a mix of luck, timing and the impact of the video. But I’ve still been using the term “viral video” like it’s some sort of holy grail, and I’d like to change course in 2009.

Yes friends, the self-proclaimed “Viral Video Genius” is now advocating for the anti-virus. Viral video is dead for 2009, and I hope this Feed Company report of the best “Viral Video” advertisements is one of the last roundups I read. 

Viral Video is Dead in 2009Yes, Virginia. I said it. Viral video is dead. In fairness, it was a bad idea from the beginning. The term viral was around well before online-video and derives from the term “virus.” Needless to say, when I first used the term in interactive-agency pitches to pharmaceutical firms in 1999 and 2000, marketers were deeply confused. 

There are three reasons I’d like to inject an anti-virus penicillin into the arm of marketing.

  1. The term “virus” is not polite or accurate. Social media requires a new mindset where terms like “targets” and “bulls eye” aren’t exactly terms of endearment. Business is packed with war terms, as is sports. Even “retention” or “persistence” isn’t quite the same thing as winning a customer’s loyalty. So when you want a consumer to share your promotional message with their friends, a virus isn’t the connotation you’re after. The term even implies that the video spreads despite the carriers instead of as a result of their work.
  2. Second, it’s increasingly difficult to go viral and virtually impossible to predict much less guarantee. I’ve done more than 700 videos, and only a few have gone “viral,” if that’s defined as millions of views. Fewer and fewer brands will have promotion that is so dang compelling that it will be passed along by consumers.
  3. Third, going “viral” is hardly even a worthy goal. The “viral” obsession is based on a preoccupation with “total views” instead of the right views. In our hysteria to deliver big numbers, we’ve missed a core tenant of marketing that’s more vital than “reach, frequency and single-minded proposition.” It’s called targeting.

Example: Many of you WVFF readers may remember when Agency.com’s “Subway Pitch” process was documented on YouTube, and spread among interactive marketers and agencies. Agency.com lost the pitch, and the video reached key “insiders” of the medium even though it did not get many views by conventional measures. If I’m marketing a software product to human resource managers, I want my video viewed by HR people. Sure if it’s seen 10 million times, it’s likely some of them will be HR managers. But if only 2 percent are indeed my target, perhaps I’d rather 200,000 views on blogs read by HR managers.

So let’s get back to the basics. Online-video is growing wildly, and gambling on a “viral hit” is far riskier than identifying and promoting via select channels or video creators. There are two ways to help ensure online-video investment reaches the right people:

  • ensure media buys are focused on the right audience (demographics or otherwise). 
  • partner with popular video shows and creators (professional and amateur) that have already aggregated your most-valuable consumers. 

If you’re marketing a men’s health product called “Macho Cologne,” do you buy an ad in Men’s Health (or try to get an article written about your product). Or would you launch Macho Cologne Magazine, and pray people might find it, and read it? If I’m marketing cat food, I don’t want to create my own cat videos and launch a channel. I want my ads associated with already popular animal video channels and creators (and this is getting easier with Google keywords available on YouTube). And if there’s a popular pet show that features cats, an even higher-impact model would be to sponsor the creator — especially if they have a proven ability to attract regular crowds (not just a one-hit wonder, but regular viewers/subscribers). The combination of sponsored video and advertisements is just the right cocktail is more likely to work.