Tag Archives | Subtle

Columbia Uses Pandora To Create An Experience

Columbia Pandora Banner

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of music on Pandora, and while their Music Genome Project is great, it’s their advertising that has kept me coming back for more. By working with companies to integrate their ads into the overall experience, Pandora is able to use their advertising format to create value for both the advertisers and the users. One example that really stood out recently was the integration of Columbia, which brings together a banner, backgrounds and playlists to create an entire branded experience.

Experience marketing is a growing trend in recent years, as companies think outside the banner and look beyond traditional media for their next customer, but it’s often costly, time and labor intensive, and usually relies on social media to spread the experience of a select few out to the larger population. What Pandora has managed to do with their advertising is to create an experience that, while not at the scale of a traditional experience marketing campaign, does manage to spread a sponsor’s message to a much larger audience.

The ‘Pandora Experience’ goes like this: When listening to the free version of Pandora on Pandora.com, any user action (such as changing the volume, skipping or rating a track, or changing a station) changes the banner(s). This allows Pandora to ensure that their ‘views’ are actually being viewed, and probably helps boost the numbers when it comes time to negotiate costs. Sponsored banners (vs. remnant ads served through ad networks) usually include a site takeover that changes the background as well, though not all advertisers are using that feature to its full advantage.

When Columbia makes it to the front of the sponsored banner rotation, listeners are presented with a banner that looks like a dashboard interface that has been customized to include their local weather forecast. While banner customization based on IP address has been available for a while now, it’s often inaccurate at best, and usually results in a very rough and forced feeling of customization. On Pandora however, account holders provide a zip code when they register, so the Pandora system can accurately match each user to a location they’ll recognize, even if they happen to be traveling or at work and away from their home base.

With this single piece of user data in hand, Columbia matches the user’s current weather to a piece of clothing in their current collection. Users can then scroll over the rest of the five-day forecast to see what Columbia would recommend for the upcoming weather, or arrow through a larger catalog if they see something they like and want to investigate further. Each type of weather also includes a customized playlist that a user can add to their collection of Stations, and when listening to that custom playlist, the user exclusively sees the Columbia banner and the Columbia-sponsored background that matches the weather. (Or maybe the weather that the user wishes they had, as Columbia also allows users to select a variety of alternative weather options in case they want to brighten up a stormy day with the Sunshine Playlist.)

What’s so great about this medium is that Columbia can use it to transport your mind away from your desk and into a winter wonderland, where you can see the snow and hear the winter music, and then think to yourself, ‘You know, I probably will need a winter jacket for that ski trip I’ve got planned.’ They grab your attention with personal details that you wouldn’t expect an advertiser to present you with, and then use that attention to draw you into an experience that promotes the brand to more than one of your senses.

Columbia’s attention to the detail can also be seen in the way they have designed the banner, with plenty of arrows to direct an interested viewer’s attention to the important areas of information. For starters, every arrow but the ‘Buy Now’ button points away from the product, giving your eye a point to focus on that centers on the product they want to sell you. Then, if your eye works its way down from the forecast through the trail of orange, there are arrows along the way to guide you from the product to the weather to the custom playlist to the ‘Add Playlist’ button. It’s subtle, but there’s some good UI going on in this banner that works well for the intended purpose. If I were to find fault, I’d say that the alternative playlist selection is a little funky, but that’s nitpicking at best, since most users will just want to select the playlist they’re given that matches the weather they’re currently experiencing.

By presenting each user with a single banner at a time, and not overwhelming them with a barrage of advertising, Pandora has created a valuable placement that advertisers should be willing and happy to pay a premium for. At the same time, companies who are going to pay that premium need to be smart about it and think like Columbia to create an experience that adds to the medium and gives users a reason to engage with the advertising.

The Good:

  • Integration creates a full experience that can be shared by a large number of consumers.
  • A small amount of user data goes a long way towards creating a look and feel that is customized without being intrusive.
  • Repeat engagement is dynamic, and the experience changes with the weather.

The Bad:

  • Alternative playlist selection is a rough edge on an otherwise smooth experience.
  • The available backgrounds are a bit… ugly.

The Future:

  • Custom integration within specific channels allows advertisers to cater their message to each user and create a small-scale experience that packs plenty of impact.

Amnesty International Uses Eyeball-Aware Ad To Enhance Message

Amnesty International Eyeball Aware Ad

Amnesty International’s bus stop ad is a great example of how interactivity and eyeball-aware ads can be used to engage viewers and add another level of meaning to the overall message. The ad is for a campaign that aims to bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence, and uses a small camera to detect faces. When no one is looking, the screen shows a man abusing his wife. When the camera detects a face, the ad waits a few seconds for the message to sink in, and then the couple stops fighting and does their best to look normal. It’s a subtle message, but definitely drives home their tagline, “It Happens When Nobody Is Watching.”

It’s easy to see why an ad like this would be effective. Usually, when a viewer looks at an ad, they may only see the message for a few moments before looking away. However, with an interactive ad that responds to the viewer’s gaze, they’re more likely to look longer to see what will happen. Thus, views last longer, and the message has more time to sink in. (It’s important to note that video ads for the sake of movement is not what we’re talking about here. The movement needs to be a part of the message to really be effective at enhancing the overall ad.)

Taking the concept a step further, imagine an ad that ‘talks’ to the viewer. Since the technology gives ads self-awareness, a donut shop could create an ad that says good morning to anyone that walks by, or a clothing store could create an ad that compliments (or mocks!) outfits in the crowd. The technology would also allow advertisers to incorporate a video that starts only when someone is looking, rather than playing over and over again on a constant loop.

In addition to enhancing the message, an outdoor ad that’s aware of when people are looking at it ushers in a whole new level of measurement, as view numbers no longer need to be rough estimations of foot traffic and awareness. Instead, each ad can be bought and sold based on accurate view numbers and actual engagement, giving advertisers proof that they’re getting what they’re paying for, and allowing media companies to price their high profile ad placements with the premium they deserve.

Like any new ad format, eyeball-aware ads are in their creative infancy, and I would expect to see many more uses emerge as advertisers start to understand and explore the technology, but as an effective and engaging means of enhancing a message, this is definitely one format to keep an eye on.

The Good:

  • Uses eyeball-awareness to enhance the message and engage the viewer.
  • Allows for advanced measurement techniques that take into account actual engagement.

The Bad:

  • Expensive technology makes ads difficult to scale.

The Future:

  • Ads that are viewer-aware allow advertisers to create more interactive messages and engage the viewer in new and unique ways, while better matching cost to value.

Never Hide Films Are Viral Successes For Ray-Ban

Never Hide Films

UPDATE: On January 12, 2010, Ray-Ban released another video in their ‘Never Hide Films’ series showing a guy getting a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses tattooed on his face. (The video, called ‘Guy Has Glasses Tattooed On His Face’, is shown below.) Once again the video was picked up by a number of very popular blogs and sites, and quickly spread throughout the internet, fueled by ‘Real vs. Fake’ discussions (it’s fake) and amassing nearly 500,000 views in just two days. By keeping their finger on the pulse of what’s cool, unique and attention grabbing, Ray-Ban has turned their video series into a viral video factory, and now has the track record to prove it.

To help promote their line of sunglasses, Ray-Ban created a series of viral videos called Never Hide Films. With 11 total videos to date, they’ve seen multi-million view successes, and four-digit failures, so it’s an interesting look at what works well as an online viral video, and what doesn’t.

Their most recent video, released just two days ago, is called “Cow Gives Birth To A Dude”, and has already been viewed more than 150,000 times:

This video is pure shock and awe, and the pull-no-punches approach works well on a site like YouTube, where viewers have seen just about everything done a thousand times over and have become numb to even relatively shocking videos, so that it takes something truly unique to grab their attention. Part of this video’s success is due to the fact that Never Hide Films has an established channel on YouTube with more than 1,400 subscribers, but it’s also due in large part to the fact that when you view the video, you’re left with a feeling of “WTF?” (as evidenced by a majority of the comments left on the video saying just that) and you know that if you send it to a friend, they will have that same feeling as well. It becomes a tool that viewers can use to surprise and shock their friends, and they pass it along with that goal in mind.

The second video, and their most popular video to date, is called “Guy Catches Glasses With Face”, and has received nearly four million views in just over a year. What made this video a success was that it used an existing YouTube meme (amazing and unbelievable actions performed over and over again with an increasing difficulty, such as long basketball shots, tossing cans into a recycling bin from a long distance, or complicated and multi-step beer pong shots) but did so in a very fluid and believable way. This was also one of their first films, so it spurred a lot of discussion about whether or not the video was real or fake, and one YouTube user even posted an elaborate, shot by shot explanation of how the video was made:

Even after it was shown to be fake however, the quality and the uniqueness of the idea ensured that people continue to watch it and share it with others.

The third video was a sequel to the “Guy Catches Glasses With Face” video, called “Bobbing For Glasses”, and it’s a great example of how you can take the success from one video and transfer it into the next. The idea is very similar to the first video, as an amazing and unbelievable action is repeated over and over again, but this time, they were able to link their face catching video to the glasses bobbing video using YouTube’s built-in video reply feature, as well as their editable description area, thus sending anyone that was interested in the face catching video over to the glasses bobbing video as well.

Lastly, their second most popular video, called “Bikini Body Builder Vs. Rubik’s Cube” was a precursor to the cow video in that it was very much designed to shock and awe, relying on pure absurdity to draw in viewers. At just over a minute long, it’s also long enough to establish itself as a strange and unusual video that’s willing to really dive into a concept, but short enough to grab someone’s attention, reward them for watching the entire thing, and then move them on to the next video in the Never Hide Films series:

This video also shows the power of frequently used YouTube keywords, such as Bikini, Body Builder and Rubik’s Cube, as each of those topics has its own community of videos within YouTube that results in a lot of search traffic and tie-ins to related videos.

Though Ray-Ban’s Never Hide Films have not always been successes, they’re willing to take a risk and put unique and interesting content out there to see what sticks, and then once they have a success on their hands, they leverage that success to make their next video successful as well, thus continuing to virally grow their community.

The Good:

  • Unique and interesting videos draw in a large and varied audience.
  • Success from one video transfers to the next through built-in tools that YouTube provides.
  • Tapping into an existing meme ensures that the videos become part of an established group of popular content.
  • Shock-and-awe approach helps the videos stand out from the crowd.
  • Willingness to take a risk results in some videos that aren’t successful, but larger successes when a video does resonate well within the YouTube community.

The Bad:

  • Never Hide Films created their own Digg account to promote the films through that channel, but did not put enough time or effort into that account to make the submissions a success, resulting in a missed opportunity for additional views.
  • The videos are buried inside of Ray-Bans’ Flash website rather than being featured on their own URL, eliminating any social networking or social bookmarking potential.
  • Branding is too subtle and often goes unnoticed, as the videos could have featured a post-roll ad without a huge loss in authenticity once the initial ‘real or fake’ debates ended.
  • Low quality videos make it difficult to see many of the effects clearly.

The Future:

  • Viral videos push the boundaries of decency in an effort to stand out from the crowd, resulting in a series of hits and misses that need to be optimized once the community finds a video that it likes.