Tag Archives: Snapchat

The Ludovico Technique

One of the most uncomfortable scenes in all of film is the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” in which Alex is made to watch scenes of horrible violence for an extended period of time. His eyes are held open and his head is immobilized. This is part of the fictional aversion therapy known as The Ludovico Technique. It’s forced attention to something.

That’s what a good chunk of marketing has become today. What got me thinking about this was the announcement by Snapchat that they will test a new ad format called “Commercials”, which will be unskippable six-second ads that run in select Snapchat Shows. You want to see the show? Then you WILL watch the ad. It’s not all that rare anymore for various media to force your attention. Been in a taxi lately? Maybe you were subjected to TaxiTV. Nonstop noise and motion that, unfortunately, we humans are wired not to avoid. Maybe your attention was grabbed at the gas pump. $15 of gas and a headache from the TV screen blaring the latest headlines and ads. Or perhaps you didn’t have your headphones on as you waited for your flight to leave and the sound of the overhead TV (and the ads) interfered with your reading. YouTube has a “skip” button after 5 seconds for longer ads but also sells unskippable 6-second ads.

All of these things as forced attention. Disabling the fast-forward button during VOD playback is another. I am well acquainted with the attention-value exchange. We give you free content, you give us your attention which we then sell to sponsors. I made a career in TV and media based on it so I’m a fan. I’m not, however, a fan of taking that attention without consent. You can always change the channel or flip the page if you want to skip the ad. The examples above don’t give you that option.

So where is the issue? Not with the media. Our job is to provide the sponsor with the opportunity to sell something. If the creative is awful, people leave. The focus needs to be on making ads that people want to watch. There is an ad running now with bulldogs substituting for bulls during the Pamplona run. I watch it every single time. There are many other great examples of ads you wouldn’t skip even if you could. Forcing consumers to watch is stealing their attention. It’s subjecting them to a bombardment of crap with any shelter available. Does that sound like a great way to do business?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

Tribute Bands And Your Business

Over the weekend I saw the Dark Star Orchestra. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, they’re one of the leading tribute bands out there and they play the music of The Grateful Dead. I’ve seen them several times and oddly enough each time I do it reminds me of a few business thoughts.

I played in several bands as I was growing up. We always felt we were a cover band. We were playing someone else’s songs but doing so in our own way. Most tribute bands go beyond that and attempt to recreate the sounds and often the appearance of the original artists. If you’re any sort of fan of The Dead you know that their performances were very hit or miss. The DSO is way more consistent and they sound just like The Dead on a great night each and every time. So what does this have to do with business?

I think imitation is more than just the sincerest form of flattery. I think in many ways it’s better than innovation despite the fact that we often hear of the “first mover advantage.” Innovation is great, but by not being first the flaws in the original product or service become way more clear. The fact that you’re building later lets you correct for those flaws and get beyond the original. That usually is something you can do much more cost-effectively too.

What do I mean? The iPod was not the first music player, just the most successful. Anyone who looks at Instagram knows both that they weren’t the first of their kind and that most of their “new” features these days come right from Snapchat. You could video chat someone long before Skype came around and Amazon was not the first retailer on the web. Each of those companies, and other such as Spotify and eBay, were not first movers. They were imitators – tribute bands if you will, who took the best of the pioneers and made it better.

Is it easier to get funding for a copycat? Probably – the business model has been proven and, therefore, investor risk is reduced. Japan, and now China, built economies on imitating successful products and making them better and/or cheaper. A tribute band has a pre-built fan base. If you’re a Beatles fan or an Oasis fan or a fan of The Band, you have no chance to see the original but you can spend a night with their music. If you’re a business, you don’t have to be the original if you can make the original better and capitalize on their fan base. The DSO do it brilliantly. Can you?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud, Music

Snapping Up Value

The hottest platform in social media these days is Snapchat. I’ve been a user for quite some time and I’m not sure I completely get how to use it yet. I’m amazed by the stories of those who do even if I’m discouraged that they all seem to be under 15.

As with all things eyeball related, advertisers are flocking to Snapchat because FOMO. Snapchat recently surpassed Twitter in terms of average daily users and even Facebook is feeling the heat as evidenced by their development of a Snapchat-like product. When you’re hot, you’re hot! Of course, heat has nothing to do with the success of a business unless it’s translated into revenue and profit, and so the Snapchat folks are actively selling themselves to marketers.  It’s therein where lies today’s business thought.

Advertisers are complaining about both the pricing and investment level needed to gain access to the Snapchat audiences. This from the Digiday folks:

Snapchat started selling ads in late 2014, and early products — one that went to every user and disappeared within 24 hours — cost about $750,000. In 2015, Snapchat brought down the price for video ads to 2 cents a view, or $20 for 1,000 views. This year, prices were back up with premium animated lenses that could cost millions depending on how many an advertiser bought in a given day, and interactive ads, where users can swipe up for more content, cost about $55 for 1,000 views.

I’ll agree that the level of investment required here is steep, even for big brands.  Other than special events, most unit investments in various media don’t require close to a million dollar outlay.  Obviously, and perhaps by design, the pool of advertisers becomes rather limited as well. Providing an API that will let marketers serve ads through third-party technology companies with a smaller outlay makes sense.  But that’s not the business point.

Where I disagree with Snapchat’s thinking is in dropping the CPM. We can’t ever allow price and value to become confused, whether we’re selling media or anything else. This platform has tremendous value – which I measure by both reach and engagement – and to drop pricing is a mistake. It’s the same thinking we faced in my TV days when trying to sell Super Bowl ads. High CPM? You bet. Tremendous cash outlay? Uh-huh. But the value of that exposure is unlike anything else in media, and in the nearly 20 years since I sold my last Super Bowl ad the value has only gotten higher.

The cost/value equation is one everyone in business needs to learn. Have you?

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A Snap Of A Dilemma

Are you on Snapchat? I am, although I don’t pretend to understand it as well as some of my younger friends. What I do understand about it, however, is that they are facing the sort of dilemma that torments a lot of businesses. I don’t have any real answers today but maybe you do. Let’s see. 

Snapchat began as a way for users to send disappearing content – photos, videos – to other users. Of course, as with everything on the internet, the content never really disappears (screengrabs, anyone?), but let’s put that aside. The app became very successful and now has over 100 million daily active users. That’s the sort of scale that becomes incredibly appealing to marketers, and it also makes other revenue options such as commerce and data mining more viable.

Now the dilemma. Snapchat’s business has been built to a great extent on the premise of privacy. If you’ve ever tried to locate someone on the platform, good luck. If you don’t have the email address they’re using or their exact Snapchat name, it’s very hard. That may be great if you’re a user trying to avoid stalkers, but if you’re a brand trying to get users it means you need to do a lot of external marketing of your Snapchat presence.  This quote from a recent Digiday piece says it nicely:

One of Snapchat’s main selling points with users entails its combination of anonymous users and disappearing messages. The company has been strident about not building profiles on users to creepily advertise to them. As the reality sinks in about the need for a viable business, more targeting and data capabilities follow. Technology partners are able to bring their own data to an API — email lists and other customer information — to serve ads against.

Therein lies the dilemma.  Until now, Snapchat has tried to make money by selling “lenses”, overlays that will let you alter your snaps so that, say, you can be vomiting rainbows (and who doesn’t want to do that!).  While $300,000 a month in lens sales is nothing to sneeze at, it’s not nearly the kind of monetization that a platform with this kind of user base can command. They also tried to sell ads embedded in some of the “stories” that are a part of the service (they’re a series of snaps linked together around a theme).  Apparently they don’t have enough user data or metrics about engagement to satisfy big spending.  So what do they do?  What is the business?

The balance between staying true to the reasons customers engaged with you in the first place and making money is tricky.  Better metrics and targeting might mean less privacy.  More ads in content mean less user enjoyment (no one likes being interrupted). Less enjoyment and decreased privacy might mean a decline in the user base.  But it is a business, and investors want to see a return.

So what’s the answer?

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Filed under digital media, Thinking Aloud