09 Jan, 2013 – one comment
On behalf of Dr. Pepper TEN, a crack team here at Deutsch LA has just launched what we’ve dubbed The Like Report. It’s a first of its kind study of manliness, based on actual Facebook data. Through a third party app, we got our hands on 536,369,926 points of Facebook Like data and through that data we learned such things like Asian Food has a higher percentage of Likes by men than horror movies. Or that ping pong is a ding dong dominated sport, with 79% Likes by men. As more people use the site, we’ll build on our dataset and hopefully our understanding of what men Like (to-date we’ve already racked up an additional 871k Likes). Over time, we also hope to release actual reports on the differences between men and women across the country.
On the site, you can play a guessing game on the topics guys like most, you can test your manliness by comparing your Likes to our Like pool, and you can browse a plethora of topics broken down by gender. It’s a cool idea and we’ve only begun to explore different ways to mine Facebook Like data and allow users to interact with it.
But sales pitch over. I wanted to use this post to talk rather candidly about the process behind launching a small digital experiment like this and some things we’ve learned along the way.
combatting the unknown
You could imagine our sales pitch to the client went a little something like this: “Let’s put a mirror up to the differences between men and women using actual data.” Nice idea but so many unknowns. What data? Where would we get it? How would we navigate the sensitivities of tone (pitting men vs women)? How would the user interact with this? Why would the user interact with this? What would we want the user to do after the interaction was over? We didn’t just need to answer these questions, we needed to answer them before we could expect the client to say, “Go.” And that’s pretty indicative of all digital ideas that extend beyond traditional banners or video content – in the pitch you’re usually relying on keyframes and clever copy to intrigue the client, but you’ll need considerable more detail to loosen the purse strings.
We wouldn’t have been able to marshal these answers in a reasonable time frame (also without going broke during concepting) without a few key ingredients: 1) damn good producers, 2) tech literacy across every member of the core team, 3) physical proximity, and 4) a smart partner. This project was a perfect case study in how the role of a digital producer, especially at the outset of a project, is to vanquish unknowns. Also, we couldn’t have iterated as a team without literally keeping the core team in a single room through the duration of the project AND ensuring each member of that team had a strong foundation of tech knowledge. Our creatives were not co-opted traditionalists. They were true digital-first creatives. Lastly, we quickly found a data partner that could help us skip over the immediate hurdle of collecting millions of data points (our backup would have been to create our own app and launch a campaign to ask people to authorize it).
selling a prototype
Even after answering the technical unknowns, there was a wide gap between the slide in the deck detailing the concept and the realized experience. And this gap wasn’t just on the client’s side, without a cogent first stab at the execution, our own team had several competing visions for the final product. Instead of spending countless hours debating conceptual ideas, the team forced itself to produce a sketch-like prototype to share internally and with the client. Yes, it would close off some of the creative avenues we could explore if we had more time, but it created a tangible ‘thing’ to sell to the client.
The screenshot above was the team’s actual first prototype of the experience. You might notice that we borrowed quite heavily from TugOfStore at the time. The team produced this prototype in Flash in only a matter of hours and it was this prototype that helped the client move from being interested in the idea to becoming interested in its execution.
the return of the micro-site?
One central question we struggled with was where this experience should live. One of this brand’s biggest assets is a considerable Facebook fan presence. We wanted to leverage that, especially because of the Facebook nature of the idea itself.
For some time, brands have been building experiences directly at Facebook, via a Facebook tab, to engage their fans. But the more digging we did, the more this seemed like the wrong direction. For one, with the latest redesign of Facebook, tabs are even harder to find. Two, the Facebook mobile app has no ability to serve up a tab or app and an increasing number of people rely on mobile alone to visit Facebook. Third, we dug up various stats that showed around only 1% of Facebook fans of a brand ever actually navigate back to the brand’s page. Fourth, an experience built into a tab comes with user experience and design limitations. But the most damning argument to be made against building experiences on Facebook is that Facebook, in a brainstorm with our team, actually discouraged us from building the experience on their platform for these very reasons. We were thankful for their honesty and a bit stunned by it.
So what did that leave us? Well, our first instinct was to find a media partner to host the experience. We thoroughly believe that interactive ideas need to be built on the platforms that users have already chosen to spend time at, rather than using media to lure users off to a micro-site. But here’s the rub: for the level of custom interaction we wanted, most publishing partners priced themselves outside of our budget. They are focused on their own timelines, product roadmaps, and editorial. For what we wanted to accomplish, even if we did the majority of the development, they would still have to redirect internal resources to cater to our needs and not their own. And ultimately, that was too costly.
If I can give you a piece of advice, I’d strongly suggest identifying media partners based on the challenge at hand, and then bring them into your creative ideation as early as possible. And bypass the media sales team as often as you can. If the goal is to get to attention-grabbing executions, then you need a partner thinking beyond the standard ad units they’re tasked to sell.
Digital is different from broadcast because of the murky legal waters surrounding digital executions. When you slap a brand name on anything you do on the web, there are risks (even beyond getting sued by patent trolls over using drop-down menus). As the team concepted the idea, one vision they had in mind was for the brand to take on an editorial role on everything that is Liked on Facebook. For example, one concept had the brand releasing daily updates on what was trending among men and women. The roadblock there is that most things that would have daily relevance would be tied to entities protected by copyright (e.g. Notre Dame Football, Brad Pitt, The Hangover). And even though we’re pulling that data directly from user behavior, if we were to showcase that data on a branded site (no matter what language we use), we would be violating copyright law.
This fact cripples a brand’s ability to create utility from existing user data and behavior on the web. Startups can take the risk because they have nothing to lose. Sometimes it isn’t even that cut and dry. Often you can speak to several attorneys and get several different perspectives on the law – especially when it comes to mining user data. Again, the deck is often stacked against us when we do want to create experiences beyond banners and web video.
This isn’t a new lesson but it’s always worth repeating. Nothing in digital is ever launched ‘perfect’ or finished (We say that digital is the ultimate etch-a-sketch). Always plan for worst-case scenarios and expect for them to happen. It’s nice to think about all the ways you’ll want to iterate and improve your shiny new digital toy, but first be ready to extinguish fires and dispense duct-tape.
Last of all, Dr. Pepper should be recognized for their courage. This isn’t a box they’ve already filled and it isn’t the most comfortable bet to make. Our internal team rallied to put out an engaging first iteration of the experience and we’re looking forward to doing even more together.
06 Jan, 2013 – 2 comments
I was fumbling with my iPhone 5 today when I came across the screen above.
Like staring at Medusa, I froze for a second.
This falls into a more subjective realm, but that screen is hideous. True, it’s probably the single most utilitarian function of the device, a function which itself is almost vestigial. But Apple used to be able to make even the most hard-working interactions enjoyable.
06 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment
03 Jan, 2013 – one comment
Because I am clinically unable to relax, I used some time over the break to revise my bio-site at BudCaddell.com.
I aimed toward simplicity but I left a rabbit hole in a (very non-exhaustive) timeline of my life at the bottom of the page.
To pull off the timeline, I used Timeline.js which was incredibly easy to implement and only required a little CSS knowledge to customize it. More sites should definitely try it.
Well, enjoy. Let me know what you think.
19 Dec, 2012 – one comment
Rather than a trends-piece or a learnings round-up, I thought I’d grace you with the planned tent poles of my focus for next year. These are based on my experience over the last 15 months growing a new discipline within a rigid(ish) organization and debuting a new service model for an established industry.
‘Agile,’ or its cousin ‘lean,’ are the biggest buzzwords in our industry right now. If you plotted them on the Gartner Hype Cycle, I think you’d find them somewhere near the ‘trough of disillusionment,’ though. One reason for this is that agile has to be applied across the institution’s practices before it actually works. In advertising, agile planning or agile production sound great, but when they meet fixed budgeting, bloated approvals, or glacial staffing, there is absolutely no traction. Worst of all, you tend to deflate a team’s momentum and overall interest when you hit these inevitable roadblocks. Next year I’m going to pay better attention to our entire assembly line.
I have two management-related pet projects I want to accomplish next year. The first is a system integrated into my Outlook Calendar that limits the percentage of my time that I’m allowed in meetings per week. Say I determine that I’d like to spend no more than 20 hours a week in meetings, then my calendar would alert me when I’ve reached this threshold and would ask the meeting coordinator to consider an informal chat or discussion via email instead. Admittedly, this won’t make me popular within my organization.
The second pet project I’d like to undertake is a system to measure the work load and overall happiness of my team. Right now I measure these things with a simple but crude weekly survey, via Google Forms. I’d like to mature this into a system which allows each employee to track their work load and happiness over time and record notes for the team as a whole.
paying off my promises
More than two years ago, I raised money to write a book. Immediately after this, life decided to muck about with my plans and my productivity. The cause of this disruption is finally coming to a somber but welcomed close, and the book will soon shift to be my top priority.
I’m still wrestling with this one. I have a blue-collar work ethic. I believe in putting my head down, grinding on a project, and then holding myself and my team accountable for our results. On good days, this makes me successful. On other days, this distances me from my co-workers and my superiors, which eventually erodes the power I have to lobby on the behalf of my team. If I want them to be successful in the larger organization, I suppose I have to come to terms with the fact that interpersonal impressions are weighted more heavily in organizations than direct results. As long as I’m working for someone else, this is reality.
Oh hey, I’m getting married next year. That’s pretty awesome.
15 Dec, 2012 – leave a comment
From an interview with Eric Schmidt and the Authors@Google speaker series. Skip to 6:50 for the failure bit.
14 Dec, 2012 – leave a comment
I’ve been too busy lately to fully form the thought, but I’ve been feeling nostalgia for the early days of the web. With Twitter turning on its own third-party ecosystem, Instagram pulling out of Twitter, Pinterest being so stingy on releasing an API, Facebook taking away user voting, Google crushing Reader’s community … it feels that the ideals and implicit promises which made the early web so great are being lost and forgotten.
Anil Dash has done us the favor of exploring this idea, far better than I could have, in his post The Web We Lost:
Five years ago, if you wanted to show content from one site or app on your own site or app, you could use a simple, documented format to do so, without requiring a business-development deal or contractual agreement between the sites. Thus, user experiences weren’t subject to the vagaries of the political battles between different companies, but instead were consistently based on the extensible architecture of the web itself.
That’s just one of the many differences he catalogs, I highly recommend you read the whole thing.
04 Dec, 2012 – leave a comment
GigaOM just posted a nice write-up of a new platform we’ve launched for Pop Secret, dubbed Pop Secret Labs.
In the next 9-12 months, we hope to demonstrate how digital campaigns should be executed for the modern web. We’ve got a slew of smart utilities and clever partnerships in the pipe to help make movies even more fun and social.
It deserves to be said that good work can only be done when your client is smart and fearless – and the team at Pop Secret is both.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
27 Nov, 2012 – 2 comments
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13 Nov, 2012 – leave a comment
These are slides and notes from a recent workshop I lead for a small conference in Bend, OR. This workshop was three hours, so the deck does some bouncing between topics and covers a fairly large swath of things I’ve been thinking about lately. I’d love to hear any thoughts, concerns, or condemnations you might have.