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The Year In Pictures, In Review

Luminate CEO (and my boss) Bob Lisbonne debuted his Forbes column, Visual Approach, with a look back at “the most widely photographed year in history” and the major developments across the imagesphere in 2012: The Year In Pictures, In Review.

The year in images dawned with an explosive start when Facebook announced it would acquire Instagram. While many fixated on the $1 billion price tag, implications for Facebook’s mobile strategy, or whirlwind negotiations, I found it fascinating that a company whose essence revolved around relationships between friends, would find irresistible a network whose connections centered on pictures.

It was a year of significant hardware innovations, pictures from Mars, break-through interactive galleries and the first skirmishes in a battle of the Internet titans over who will dominate the future of photography. Full column here.

Visual Targeting: Garnier Taps Luminate to Target Images of Smooth-Skinned Women

Earlier this year, we at Luminate launched Visual Targeting, an ad platform that connects campaigns to images based on visual cues inside individual photos around the web. (I like how Business Insider describes it: “Luminate’s ad-serving system is ingenious.”) One of our pioneer partners was the Garnier unit of L’Oreal. From today’s coverage in Ad Age:

Instagram caused a Twitterstorm this week when it told users that it retains the right to use user images in advertising. Since images dominate content shared in social networks, brands are taking a keen interest. But even if Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and others wanted to target images, it raises a technical issue: How to target advertising at the content of images if you don’t know what’s there?

Startup Luminate took on the problem for L’Oreal brand Garnier this past fall for the launch of a new product, indeed a new class of product called BB cream (beauty balm), which has been popular in Asia for years but is just now becoming prevalent in the U.S. Garnier was interested in targeting images of women — not just any women, mind you — but fresh-faced, beautiful women with clear skin, which might put other women into a moment of beauty aspiration.

“We targeted images of women, not just celebrity women but women with beautiful skin, women in fashionable environments,” said Michelle Ryan, VP of marketing for Garnier Skin Care.

More on how the system works at Ad Age.

US Internet Ad Spending Nearly $9.3 Billion in Q3 2012

“Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. reached $9.26 billion for the third quarter of 2012, making the quarter the biggest on record, according to the latest IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report figures released today by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC US. These figures show an 18 percent climb year-over-year, in comparison to Q3 2011′s $7.8 billion. In addition, they mark a 6 percent increase over the Q2 2012 figures of $8.72 billion.”

More at IAB.

Brands As Patron of the Arts: Pepsi’s New Deal with Beyonce

Pepsi has signed a $50 million deal with Beyonce that will include a traditional spokesperson arrangement, as well as creating a fund to support “creative projects” that may have nothing to do with Pepsi products or ads. From the NY Times:

The less conventional aspects of the deal are meant as collaborative projects that indulge Beyonce’s creative whims, and might well have no explicit connection to Pepsi products…. For Pepsi, the goal is to enhance its reputation with consumers by acting as something of an artistic patron instead of simply paying for celebrity endorsements.

Senior Pepsi marketing exec Frank Cooper positions the deal (and others like it) as a new model to fund artistic expression in an era where record labels are less likely to foot the bill. Musicians have a new source to fill the coffers, and brands benefit from the association.

We recognize that there have been massive disruptions in music industry: lower investment in artist development, fewer points of distribution, financial constraints. We look at those disruptions as opportunities for Pepsi.

Five hundred years ago Pope Julius II paid Michelangelo’s rent and enlisted his talents to help sell Catholicism — and we all benefit from the lovely paintings. Maybe our great great great grandchildren will thank Pepsi for bequeathing them with a few more Beyonce albums.

In the meantime I wonder what kind of impact these deals have on our affinity for a brand. On the one hand, the PR benefit probably pays for deal — just like Intel’s press bonanza justified its deal with, and Polaroid its deal with Lady Gaga. And perhaps a little something extra is just what it takes to land an endorsement deal with Beyonce-level talent: If you believe the association with Beyonce is worth $60 million, and the endorsement deal adds up to $45 million, who cares about another $5 million tossed into a “creative whims” fund? But it’s pretty hard to imagine how that creative projects fund will pay back Pepsi’s investment among this generation of soda drinkers.

Digiday Brand Summit 2012

I took one for the team this week, trekking out to idyllic Deer Park, Utah, to attend Digiday’s Brand Summit. Speakers included executives, marketers and social media leaders from Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nielsen, Nestle, Fox, Turner, MGM Grand, TaylorMade, Saatchi, OMD and others. If I can exclude the conversations about snow conditions and s’mores technique, there were three big recommendations coming from the podium. And perhaps I bring a certain bias to the discussion but photos-as-messaging-unit was a recurrent theme throughout.

1. Target your audience, not the hot new platform

Montana Triplett, director of digital for Hennessey, acknowledged the huge audience and excitement around Pinterest, but it’s not on her list of priority media channels for 2013. “Moms pinning pictures of Halloween costumes aren’t our demo.” (She does, however, expect Instagram to play a big role for Hennessey in 2013, now that the service offers a mechanism to avoid the under 21 crowd.)

Asked if the search era is giving way to a social media era, iCrossing president and CEO Don Scales cautioned against strategies that are built to serve a distribution channel instead of a brand story. Neither search nor social defines the current era, he said: “It’s a content era.”

In a conversation about mobile advertising strategies MGM Grand’s Donna Goff put it most concisely: “Target humans not the device.” Technologies and platforms change fast but your customers are still humans, motivated by the same kinds of things that motivated them 20 years ago.

2. Tailor your message to the medium, not your comfort zone

To paraphrase the comments of several speakers: Whatever question you ask your agency, its answer will involve online videos and rich, beautiful imagery for your corporate website. It may not be the right tool for the job, but it’s right there at the top of the toolbox.

(Tammy Gordon is director of social for AARP.)

Meanwhile, according to Jim Cuene, interactive marketing director at General Mills, “In social media video isn’t awesome — but images are.” Hennessey’s Triplett echoed the sentiment: “A photo of a liquor bottle works better for us than a celebrity video.” Two more examples of brands behaving like publishers: Create content, give your customers access to it, make more of whatever they liked. Cuene pointed out that General Mills has been exercising its publishing muscles for nearly 100 years, starting with Betty Crocker cookbooks back in the 1920s.

3. Emotional rewards can be as powerful as monetary one

To hear some pundits talk about success in social media (such as this one), you’d think the secret to digital marketing is scavenger hunts with cash handouts for the winners. So it was refreshing to be reminded by several experienced social-marketing practitioners that emotional rewards — a reply in Twitter, say, or the opportunity to see the photo you submitted on the brand’s homepage — inspire participation as effectively as prize money. Many of us, it turns out, want fame more than fortune.

(Esty Gorman is director of strategy at Iris Worldwide.)

And building an emotional connection drives more value for your brand. Traffic from Hennessey’s social programs has a lower bounce rate and results in longer time-spent on their sites than traffic from paid ads.

Digiday’s photo contest was its own case-in-point. They asked conference attendees to post pictures to Instagram and Twitter marked #Digiday, and one participating photographer would win an iPhone lens attachment. I was surprised to see two guys posting pictures from their Samsung phones. “What’ll you do with the iPhone accessory if you win?” I asked, and they shrugged their shoulders. Turns out they just got a kick out of seeing their pictures projected above the stage during breaks. I’ll admit that barely qualifies as “fame” but it was enough to do the trick.