Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5 questions with a Publishing PR

A couple of weeks ago I met up with Tony Mulliken, chairman of Midas Public Relations.  Tony's a friend from long ago, and one of the things we talked about was how digital media was changing PR, and online PR in particular.

He suggested I talk Alexander Martin, Head of Digital Media.  Here are his answers to my five questions.  He's very articulate!

Describe your job and a typical day
Every day is different – which is what keeps it exciting. I work with a range of clients, from artists such as the amazing Stephen Wiltshire, to authors, publishers and technology companies. I work with my own clients – running specific digital and new media campaigns – but also with colleagues’ clients, working on the social media aspects of their projects, such as updating a client’s Blog, monitoring a Facebook page, or engaging with consumers on Twitter. We also create videos for clients – author interview videos are especially popular, and often featured by bloggers alongside more traditional book reviews. Readers also love to see and hear an author speaking about their book, so videos really add something new and give the media another reason to feature our clients. Overall, it’s a digital PR role, with creating new and exciting content at the heart of it. We create websites, videos and Apps, which all play a part in larger social media campaigns, making the most of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the internet in general, as a method of communicating – and listening to – consumers.

How did you get into your current job?
I started at Midas PR as an intern, straight after finishing at university. It’s a really friendly company to work for, and we have a huge variety of clients. I started in a general PR role, learning the key elements of communication and generating media coverage with the traditional media – newspapers, radio, TV, magazines, etc. Over the past few years, there’s been an explosion of social media and the whole landscape of how people communicate has changed. This obviously has affected PR, but also the marketing and advertising industries. To make the most of this change in how people communicate and where they look for news, Midas developed a New Media division, ‘Midas GOLD’. I had experience in website design, graphic design and video production from before university, so was recruited to employ these skills in the PR world. I was also an early adopter of Facebook and have always been keen to use and learn about new social networks, as they develop. Working with the team at Midas, we quickly formulated a new suite of digital services, and now offer these to all our clients. In my role of Head of New Media, we have expanded our services to include mobile app development, and have worked on award-winning social media campaigns – for clients ranging from Disney to Mills & Boon!

What is different about how thing are done online compared to offline?
In many ways, online and offline media are very similar. It’s all about providing content which will be of interest to that specific media outlet. Online, there are more opportunities to target niche, specialist interests, but often the approach is similar, in terms of contacting the journalist or blogger, finding out what they’re looking for, and offering some new and exclusive content. Though there are similarities between traditional media and websites/blogs, the real differences occur around social media. Here, it’s a different game completely. Social media is a two-way conversation, unlike traditional media, such as a newspaper or TV programme. Social media is all about listening to consumers, being reactive as well as proactive, and having a real conversation with people. This is why PR is particularly well suited to social media – advertisers and marketeers are used to selling a message to consumers; talking at them. PR is more subtle and responsive, talking to people, rather than at them – and that’s what social media is all about.

What changes do you see coming in the next 5 years?
The continued decline of traditional media is inevitable. Already, newspaper and magazine circulation figures are decreasing, and the numbers of users and hours spent on social networks – and online in general – is growing exponentially. New platforms, such as the iPad, make browsing online for information more attractive – you no longer need to be at your desktop to read news on a website, you can access it on your phone or iPad wherever you are. It’s easy, convenient, quick and attractive to consume media online now, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone will. Already, most people look to Google first if they need information, news and views. As an author, publisher or anyone with a product to sell, being online is essential, and telling people about it via social media is the smartest way to promote yourself.

What are the biggest opportunites and threats to authors from digital media?
The biggest opportunity is that the web opens up a whole world of readers to your product. Never before have so many people – wherever they are in the world - been able to find you and read your books. You need to be out there with your website, ebooks, Twitter feed, Facebook page and YouTube videos – all of which, unsurprisingly, are available from Midas PR! Many people in publishing are afraid of digital – worried than what happened to music will now happen to them. I understand their concerns, but the best way to survive in a digital revolution is to embrace the change. Readers want to read your books digitally, and if you as a publisher don’t provide your books in the formats they want, consumers will simply create it for themselves, and you will lose ownership. The digital world – both in terms of publishing and media – represents a huge opportunity to reach out to new consumers, and also to create more exciting, interactive projects. The possibilities are endless and it’s an exciting time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Twitter and the spread of mis-information

One of the things people often credit Twitter with is the ability to break news.  It’s so quick that no other sites can match it in certain situations.  With almost every major news story, particularly things like the death of Osama bin Laden, people rush around to show that the story broke first on Twitter.

However they’re a lot less keen to show how Twitter can sometimes get it completely wrong.  In the case of Obama people took a punt on the news conference announcing the death of bin Laden, and when this came to pass they could look back and show that they were the first with the news.

But it also happens the other way.  On 12th of May a rumour started circulating on Twitter than Fabio Capello had quit as the England manager.  As with the bin Laden story, the spark was the announcement of a news conference.

This is the trend for mentions of 'Capello' over the past 30 days.  You can see that there was a huge spike on the 12th May.

As far as I can work out byrno25 made the first tweet “FA making an announcement at 11pm. Hearing rumours that Capello is gone.”

This was subsequently re-Tweeted over 100 times, and people started adding their own spin to it.

For example:

“Twitter riddled with rumours that Capello has left England manager's job. Supposed annoucement by #theFA at 11pm”


“Stuart Pearce is my bet to take over from Fabio Capello, true English determination! #capello #England”

But of course, the news conference at 11pm turned out to be about something totally unrelated (an enquiry re Triesman’s allegations) and Twitter moved on.

(At this point I should add that I also tweeted about the rumour when I heard it "Wow - has Cappello gone..?", but later followed up with "No truth in Cappello rumour it seems. FA story is about FIFA & Triesman")

This shows that while Twitter does break stories, it can also spread totally unfounded rumours.  The news sites wait until they get confirmation from trusted sources, so are often more reliable.  There's a reason why journalists study for so long.  It's a difficult job.

Rumours spread because they are stories that people want to believe.  It good to use twitter, but always question what you're reading.  As they Super Injunction stories grow and grow, it's important to retain a level of scepticism.

Update - see also this article on how writer Graham Linehan created a rumour surrounding Osama bin Laden and his TV show The IT Crowd.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lady Gaga, for Chrome

Continuing the trend of companies co-opting celebs to create content for them, comes this video that is somehow promoting Chrome.  I'd love to know the deal - who was paying whom?

Gaga's everywhere at the moment - in FarmVille, and in Starbucks, for example.

Update:  On the day of release, Amazon.com was selling the album for $0.99, with a free upgrade to a 20gb Amazon Cloud account.  I'm assuming that Amazon subsidised this all themselves.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Games for Cats

Genius.  Well done Friskies.

Site here

Sadly the games aren't available as apps, but you can play them on the iPad or on Android tablet by visiting the site.  Having played I can testify that the games are perfect for cats.  For example the Cat Fishing game keeps track of how many fish you hit.

Via Liam Brennan

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bing x Dizzie Rascal

Bing is pretty big on partnerships.  In the past they've partnered with:

Jay-Z to promote his book Decoded

Tapulous to provide a free Katie Perry download

Angry Birds - Bing is embedded into the game to help people find cheats

Now they've teamed up with Dizzie Rascal to showcase his photos on their homepage.  There'll be a new photo each day this week.

See more on the Your Britain site.

YouTube takeover for King Fu Panda 2

We're starting to see more and more of these, but this one for Kung Fu Panda 2 brings in some nice interactivity.

Watch the first video, then click on the link:

It should take you here

Have a play with it!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Giving your spare space away

I like this very clever banner ad for the Nissan Micra.

To emphasise how good the car is with space (lots of places to stow stuff), the car ad only took up a small part of the banner, leaving the rest for people to fill with their own text car ad.

The banner then tweeted the user's car ad.

Also in the same vein, is this excellent work by Ben & Jerry.

They got people to opt in to donate spare characters from their tweets to help promote Fair Trade through Fair Tweets

This is my tweet 'Chewing on a yummy banana'.

Both are really good examples, because in the first the brand gives something to users, and in the second users are encouraged to give something to charity.

Ghostbusters DVD viewing party on Twitter

This is excellent!  To build the love for the whole Ghostbusters world in the run up to next year's Ghostbusters 3, Sony are holding a special DVD viewing party for the first Ghostbusters film on Twitter tomorrow.  (It's also Friday 13th)

(Click to enlarge)

Follow @GhostbustersDVD on twitter, then start the DVD at 9pm EST, 6pm PST (2am UK time) and join in the fun.

So far the twitter account has got only 324 followers, but what a fun idea.

It'd be fun to do this as a regular cult film event with people like Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg or even - why not -  stars of the film paid/encouraged to take part, or even as a special event on the day of a DVD release.

Imagine it - buy the DVD for Hangover II on the day of release, then watch it with the cast on twitter that evening.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Nokia Shorts - this is how you pitch

These are the sorts of pitches that win competitions!

Nokia Shorts is a competition on Vimeo that Carat (my agency) has helped to set up.  To emphasise the quality of the video you can shoot with a Nokia N8, Nokia are giving film makers the chance to win a budget of $5,000 and two N8s to shoot on, prior to an ultimate prize of a premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and $10,000 prize money.  I first wrote about it in March.

Film makers had to pitch their ideas.  The eight winning pitches have now been revealed.

Here are four of my favourites:

Splitscreen: A Love Story from JW Griffiths on Vimeo.


Homecoming from Teemu Nikki on Vimeo.


Pearls from jasonvangenderen on Vimeo.

Not to mention:

The Adventures of a Cardboard Box - Pitch from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.

I know I'm biased because my agency's involved, but I think there's so much promise in all of these films.  Really looking forward to seeing the finished work!

Selling Stewart Lee with Social Media

This is excellent.  I'm sure a lot of us have been in meetings like this.

For more about Stewart Lee see the main BBC page here, Stewart's site here, or search for 'Angry Stew' in the App Store.

Via Creative Review.

(It's Kevin Eldon playing the social media guru)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Cadbury's Charity Shop

A new ad from Cadbury's.

I like this - I think it might be the best one they've done since Gorilla - it's fun, the music's a guilty pleasure, and I can imagine it playing very well to a very broad audience.  I bet Smiffy's, who make most of the fancy dress costumes, and designing some 'giant clothes' outfits as I write this.

It's too easy to be cynical in agencyland.  We all hated T-Mobile's Royal Wedding film when we first saw it, and in the first few hours it was on YouTube the comments were dominated by people slagging it off, and pointing out the similarity to the earlier JK Wedding Entrance Dance film.

Yet 3 weeks later it's had nearly 20m views, the comments and ratings are overwhelmingly popular, and it reached millions on the BBC when a great chunk of it was shown on Have I Got News For You.

I think Cadbury's (Fallon) may have produced something that'll become very popular over the next few weeks.

Popping Balloons Stop-Motion

This work for MTV Brazil is excellent.  So simple in concept, in realisation... probably a less so!

Via Adrants

For 2 more great Stop-Motion examples - including one using T-shirts - see this post from 2007.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Brennan JB7

Update - November 2014 - The Brennan has ceased production and Martin Brennan is working on a new product

The Brennan JB7 is a digital music player.  You load your CDs in, and then you can then easily search through and play your collection, without the hassle of having to put your CDs in a CD player.

As it says on the website:

"The Brennan JB7 is simply a better way to enjoy your music.

JB7 holds your entire CD collection on a hard disk to give you instant access to any of your music and play unbroken music for as long as you want.
You can choose and play an album or track without getting out of your chair.
You get to see what is playing from across a room.
One button plays your entire music collection at random - another turns it off - its what you need when its late and you just want to unwind.
JB7 will re-awaken your passion for music. It will make you feel like a teenager again."

It's been advertised in every issue of Private Eye for the past 2 years or so (see pics) and they're clearly selling quite a few of them because the ads have now started to appear in more mainstream media, for example The Guardian's Weekend magazine.  This ad below uses copy taken from a Ciao review written by Les Floon in July last year.  People seem to love their Brennans.

However...  I just don't get it at all.  I don't get why anyone would buy one.

The ads talk about how you've loaded all your music onto a computer, but you never want to play music from your computer.  Surely that's what an iPod is for?  (Other MP3 players are available)  I have all of my music on my computer, but I never play it from my computer.  I synch it with my iPod, then connect my iPod to different systems in different rooms.  I can take my iPod on the train, on holiday and so on - and I can also fill it with stuff I've downloaded.  So why would I want to bother with the Brennan JB7?  Oh - and the cheapest one costs £366.  It's not a cheap option.

I think it must be a generational thing.  (See the line about 'it will make you feel like a teenager again'.)  I think the Brennan must be an example of a product that no one under the age of 40 (50?) would buy.  I'm guessing that the media that the ads appear in reflects this, but that they're trying to go a bit younger with The Guardian.

Am I wrong?  Tell me if I am.  Clearly I'm not in the target market for this, and it's a bit sad people slagging off things that aren't meant for them, like when Bill Bryson moaned about computer games.  I'll admit that it seems to be selling, and there's nothing wrong with targeting an older market.  If you've got one and it's great tell me what I'm missing...

Anyway, I'm glad I've got that off my chest after 2 years of seeing the ads in Private Eye!

Update - 14th August 2011

Brennan are now advertising in the Financial Times Weekend Magazine, and have co-opted Jools Holland as their new brand spokesman:

& there's a TV ad too:

Update - 10th January 2012

The new ad in Private Eye has the heading "MP3 player or Brennan?  I'll have both thanks" so at least they now acknowledge that MP3 players exist, and are more portable.  Now they've shifted their focus onto the higher audio quality of the Brennan.  So, a slight shift in strategy.  I still wonder who's buying them though!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New Google Search video ad format

Google showed us this new ad format today.

Search for 'Priest', a new vampire movie, and you'll see the trailer come up as the top result.  Click on that, and the video starts to stream, dimming the rest of the screen.

Officially it's a search format - you buy it as a keyword buy, and you pay cost per click.  Click = a video view in this case.

So far you can only use it for entertainment brands - films and TV shows - but I'm assuming other categories will be able to use it eventually.

+1 for Google!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Fiat Street Evo

Fiat Street Evo is a very, very clever campaign from Spain.

To promote the new Fiat Evo Leo Burnett created an app that would read street signs as if they were QR codes.  Each street sign would give different information about the car, and this effectively turned the streets into a free outdoor campaign for Fiat.

They also added a game element, with prizes hidden in some of the street signs.

I think this is absolutely great. I love it when people find new uses for existing objects or signs.

Very well done!

Fast & Furious 5 on YouTube

Another YouTube takeover, this time for Fast & Furious 5 (aka Fast 5), using the same page (youtube.com/universalpicturesuk) as the one for Hop.

Here are some screen shots:

See it here, or here if it's not still live on YouTube.  There is also a link to this game.  The technology was provided by mediamind.

I love this - it's possibly more thrilling than the film - but again why (oh why) are Universal not giving the page it's own url?  The film was out a couple of weeks ago, so interest will pass, but in 3 months time they'll be trying to sell the DVD, so why not have this on YouTube permanently?
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